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What is a Fair Use Policy?

Are you looking for unlimited?

Telephony, website hosting and other services that are a commodity in today’s business world are very competitive and very technical. There are aspects of these services you use but might not understand in the beginning but they make more sense as you get to know them.

Most people love to hear the word “unlimited” because it means they can get everything they want without worrying about the price they pay for it. On the face of it you might think to yourself, yep, I’d love to take advantage of that, but what you find is that most customers use the amount an ordinary person would use. Unlimited is really a way of saying use as much as you want and don’t ever worry about it.

If we really want to get technical we would ask ourselves “who is an ordinary person”? The definition of an ordinary person in Wikipedia is the man on the Clapham Omnibus (interest read) and this ordinary person is often better off just paying for what they use. Let’s see why.

So, you want unlimited do you?

  • Would you be happy to share that unlimited with your neighbours?
  • What would happen if you and your neighbours consumed “unlimited” amounts?
  • Would there be enough for everyone?
  • Would it be fast enough?
  • Would the quality be good enough?
  • Would the supplier end up putting limits on it?

It’s rare to see anything truly unlimited. There is a reason that most “unlimited” services have a Fair Use Policy.

Where can you find this Fair Use Policy?

If a company wants you to agree with a Fair Use Policy then they should have one, right? In my search for Fair Use Policies, searched for the Fair Use Policy of an Australian subsidiary of a large United States telephone company. Do you think I could find it? When I finally noticed the Fair Use Policy link, it took me to the Terms and Condition page. On this Terms and Condition page there was a link called Fair Use Policy, but it took me back to their Terms and Condition which stated that they had a Fair Use Policy and that it was subject to change from time to time. After a few weeks I conducted the same search to find a separate link for the Terms and Condition and the Fair Use Policy, but they both had the same writing on the page. It was the Terms and Conditions! I guess most answers are all in the details.

Most Fair Use Policies state a maximum amounts,be it storage size, number of minutes, number of calls, call duration etc. A good example is a large US based Website hosting company our organisation uses. They offer 750GB of storage space with each website! Fantastic! I logged into the administration area and created an email accounts 4GB of storage so I would never run out, but guess what happened? One of our users, who doesn’t download all his emails onto his own computer, built up 600MB of emails in his email account. As a result the website hosting company de-activated his account and sent him and me an email to say there had been a violation of their Terms of Service (TOS). After digging through this TOS agreement (which you agree to when you sign up), there it was… a limitation of 400MB per email account.

How fair is your Fair Use Policy?

These days most Terms and Conditions can change “from time to time” and they often do. It made us ask these questions:

  • “Can you rely on unlimited if it is defined by a Fair Use Policy that can change from “time to time”?
  • Is this policy designed to capture customers while giving the company the option to change the game when and as they choose?
  • Do you want to use a service that could be diminished by heavy users?
  • If you promote an “Unlimited” service, but specify limits in your Fair Use Policy, can you really call it unlimited?
  • If you promote a Fair Use Policy that does not specify usage, do you really have a Fair Use Policy?

I hope this article has helped you understand a little more about Fair Use Policies. If you are like me, you may prefer to get good calling rates and pay only for what you use, which may be less than unlimited.