People-powered mobile phone network GiffGaff is debating how best to curb excessive data use, while kicking off a few customers considered to be really taking the biscuit.
GiffGaff has always offered unlimited data with its "goody-bag" tariffs, which start at a tenner a month, and unlike competing networks it has never imposed any kind of cap or fair-use limit. But in December it changed its terms and conditions to allow disconnection of heavy data users, and has now started applying those new rules.
In common with just about every ISP in history GiffGaff has discovered that a tiny proportion of users are eating a disproportionate amount of data. In GiffGaff's case it's one per cent of the customers accounting for more than a third of the data traffic, with all the other customers subsidising the cost of carrying that data.
GiffGaff is a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) carried by O2, and therefore has to pay O2 for every byte carried (GiffGaff is owned by O2 too, but operates as a separate business). But while most ISPs face customer ire for trying to impose caps on data, if only to restrain the minority, GiffGaff seems to have recruited the majority to back its plans and even discuss how they should evolve.
The company's discussion boards are alive with calls for the one per cent to be named and shamed, though that's probably somewhere between 500 and 1000 people so not that shameful a list on which to appear. Other posters are claiming that consuming that much data is impossible without tethering (attaching a laptop) which is against the terms and conditions anyway, and as such the one per cent should just be kicked off the network indefinitely.
But connect a smartphone to a TV, then stream an evening or two of HD iPlayer*, and you'll consume as much data as any tethered web surfer - the days when one needed a laptop to breach fair-use caps are long past.
So while some of those posting are just venting their anger, others are discussing the best way to approach the problem in future. GiffGaff styles itself as the "people's network" in listening to customer suggestions, and it's certainly interesting to read what GiffGaff users are coming up with.
Suggestions include throttling the speed as usage increases (technically difficult) to banning them from ever using GiffGaff again, with every poster charmingly convinced that they themselves could never form part of the disruptive one per cent. This is despite the fact that GiffGaff won't say how much data that one percent is consuming.
Those who are in that minority are getting their data connectivity pulled, some claiming without warning. When they enquire of the support desk, disconnected users are told they can have one more chance - but push the (unpublished) limits again and "we will permanently remove your Internet access with no exceptions". ®
* Yes, iPlayer HD isn't really HD, they're not even calling it that these days, but it still eats a lot of bandwidth.