What is a fair usage policy?

The Internet has evolved and continues to evolve; the number of internet users globally has tripled in the past decade, and since the introduction of the Internet to Africa in 1991, it’s reached just over 20 percent penetration continent-wide.In Zimbabwe alone, the penetration rate is over 47 percent.

With the increase of users, the number of devices that are connected and the number of different ways in which we use them, means that we’re using the internet more than never before.

When choosing an Internet Service provider like ZOL Zimbabwe, you have to choose from multiple levels of “speed” (or bandwidth). You have to balance how much you think you need with how much you can afford.

Bandwidth describes the speed at which data can be transferred to your computer from an internet service, within a certain amount of time. The amount of bandwidth you have determines the efficiency and speed of your internet activity, for example streaming Netflix, downloading music or uploading photographs.

Imagine a gas pipe. This gas pipe is a certain diameter. Maybe it is 1 inch for a home, but a restaurant may have a 4 or 6 inch gas pipe.

In either case, there’s only a certain amount of gas that can be provided per minute or hour through that pipe. In your home, you may experience the gas pressure dropping if too many people are using the gas at the same time. If you want to be able to cook multiple things at once, you need a bigger pipe (bandwidth).

For digital devices, such as smart phones, tablets and computers, the bandwidth is usually expressed in bits per second (bps) or bytes per second. ZOL Zimbabwe, for example, has speeds on their Fibroniks package of up to 100mbps – which is fast!

Smartphones, for example, which we use everyday, have started using huge amounts of data, via social apps or streaming videos, voice and video chatting, and even gaming.

On average, a 3-minute video on YouTube takes up 8-1MB, a Skype-to-Skype call for 60 seconds takes 3MB, so a 30 minutes Skype call uses 90MB of data.

Browsing web pages and social media websites is roughly another 100MB, while emailing and doing other work on web-based applications takes almost 100MB more.

All these actions that we conduct online use bandwidth. A very small number of consumers in Zimbabwe use wireless internet service inappropriately, for example when sending or downloading very large files, or using “peer to peer” and file sharing software (which may be sending and receiving video and other large files constantly).

Even though only a very small number of consumers use the service inappropriately, their activity does greatly affect the bandwidth and ultimately the service you receive.

This means that service quality for all users on the same network is affected, making it slower for everyone to access the internet or send and receive emails, especially at peak times. To avoid this internet service providers (ISPs) globally introduced fair usage policies.

The fair usage policy is framed to manage inappropriate use, and makes sure services can be used fairly by everyone.

ZOL, for example, wants its customers to enjoy surfing the internet and their fair use policy is there to make sure their customers have the best experience possible. They also want to make sure all their customers get the experience from their chosen price plan.

Under the fair usage policy, data transfer limits of the plans are not changed, for example, an unlimited package such as ZOL Fibroniks Family Entertainment pack, with speeds of up to 20mbps, will continue as an unlimited package.

After consuming a certain amount of GB/MB on the package you have, the speeds will be rationalised. This means that the speeds you then experience, will be reduced from the normal speed of the package you have.

The speed of the network also varies depending on the availability of the network during that time and the number of subscribers who are latched onto the network at that point of time.

Day to day surfing, checking emails and occasional downloading won’t get you into trouble with your ISP. However, downloading a 1-3GB movie every day is almost certain to.

The key is to monitor the amount of data that you’re using. ZOL customers can check their usage by downloading the myZOL app.

If you’re classed as an excessive user, simply amend your internet usage pattern so that you’re not uploading or downloading at peak times. If you don’t take heed of their warnings, your ISP will slow down the speed of your connection at peak times. In serious cases your ISP may terminate your internet connection.

For more information on fair usage and the superfast Fibroniks speeds, contact the ZOL sales team on 08677 111 111.

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