At Zen, we feel strongly that ISPs should come clean with their customers. As some larger ISPs focus on promoting higher and higher speeds at lower and lower prices, there's a tendency to hide caveats behind the headline figures, using lengthy Fair Usage Policies and incomprehensible terms and conditions. Nowhere is this more true than in the area of traffic management.
All ISPs manage the data running across the network – the traffic – to some extent, but some larger ISPs are more intrusive. In some cases they throttle speeds, deliberately slowing down connections when users exceed what the ISP terms acceptable use. In others, they use a technique called Deep Packet Inspection to monitor usage and throttle the connection when you're using specific bandwidth-intensive applications, such as Peer to Peer file-sharing.
These won't affect many customers, but what might is the way traffic management is used during busy periods. No ISP can provide ample bandwidth for every customer to max-out their connection at the same time, but a good ISP plans their network so that it can cope with peaks of demand. Sadly, some ISPs prefer to throttle connections and specific applications to ensure that every customer gets some connection, even if it's far off headline speeds. This is why between, say, 3pm and 6pm, you might find your broadband line slower.
At Zen, we think this is wrong. We don't use traffic shaping or deep packet inspection in any form. We feel that our customers deserve services that are open, honest and easy to understand. That's why our products use a fully transparent system of allowances, where customers simply pay for blocks of additional usage when they go over their generous monthly allocation, and where unused blocks can be held back for another month.
However, we understand that broadband usage patterns are changing. More of us are doing more online through more devices, and this year's Olympics and Euro 2012 events may see peaks of double the usual level of demand. That's why we've doubled the usage allowances across our product range and why we're actively increasing network capacity, so that when those Olympic peaks arrive, we'll be prepared to cope.