back to article Downing Street dodges 'unlimited' broadband debate

The government has responded to more than 9,000 people who signed a petition against misleading "unlimited" broadband advertising by bouncing them back to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), which has already repeatedly refused to act. The response, posted on the much-vaunted e-petitions experiment in inclusive democracy …


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  1. Leigh Smith

    What is the point?

    What is the point of this on-line petition system? So far every response I have seen, whether I signed the petition or not, has resulted in one of two replies:

    1. Not our problem.

    2. We know best so shut up.

    Maybe someone should start a petition requesting the petition system be taken down because it is thoroughly useless and therefore a waste of money.

  2. Ed


    Has a single petition been answered by Downing Street where they promise to do something? Every single one I've signed has just resulted in me being sent some blurb like "Its none of our business, someone else deals with it" or "The current system is fine because...".

    I thought these were petitions trying to get action, not customer service...

  3. gaz

    my company

    I'm gonna start an ISP called 2Unlimited and there's gonna be no limits... so reach for your mouse, no download limit to high, no transfer rate to low! etc etc

    I'll be looking for a manager with a name such as 4Real

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    no surprise - not listening to an e-petition

    e-petitions are a way for us to THINK we have some say. It seems to be shown every time there is an issue people care about, it gets an e-petition and the government duly ignore it.

  5. Brian Miller

    If you want a fair "fair usage policy"

    I have been with Demon internet at home for about a year now. They are the home user branch of THUS. A major provider to businesses and banks. Great infrastructure and service levels, knowledgable staff. I know this because they didn't hire me and I am great, so logically they have got greater. Most failures are due to BT's infrastructure (lack of) reliability.

    Anyway Demon's fair use moniters your b/w usage over 10 days and if you are in the top 1% or so you get throttled. It is a rolling system so that if you drop out of this parameter you resume great b/w. I have found that I only get throttled rarely and the connection and billing have been very professionally managed. Cheapest I could find for unlimited data. 19.99 a month 8 meg subject to fair use as described.

  6. Jason


    "Maybe someone should start a petition requesting the petition system be taken down because it is thoroughly useless and therefore a waste of money."

    Done, let's just hope they accept it!

  7. Steve Evans

    How about an e-petition...

    ... to have details of the number, and titles of any e-petitions that have had any impact on government policy published, and details of the impact they had?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Same results as the road charges ??

    Hardly surprising to learn that the government won’t do a thing, this is one of the reasons why there are so many departments, bodies that deals with simple issues, the ability to pass the bucks. Even if an government department had the power or is responsible for the task, a quick change over of personnel would change any decisions or agreements signed or acknowledged.

    Looking back to Jamie Oliver’s campaign for healthy school meals for kids, the poor (not bank account wise) bugger spend months of his time to try to get schools to eat healthy, did he get any help from the government ? NO !!!, but in the end when he invited then Education Minister Charles Clark for a ‘school meal’ at his restraining, Clark were so impressed that he agreed to look into changing the whole system, then weeks later, cabinet reshuffle and a new education minister appointed, all existing policies are to be put oh hold or wiped out totally.

    The bottom line is, the government wont do a thing, passing the buck is the best and only policy, as when the shit hits the fans, it has the option to say ‘Oops, but we weren’t responsible for this crap, here are the escape goats’.

    One thing lacking in the UK is people power, evidences such as poll tax and fuel protest did in the end yield results, any other time they just fall onto death ears.

    Back to the original point, how on earth can an government agency whom suppose to make sure consumers don’t get rip off to allow the thinking of ‘hidden clause of usage limit’ is the same as ‘unlimited’ ??

    e-Petition is great… on paper, but really do the government really gives a monkey ? no, look at the road charging scheme, almost 2 millions signed up against it, but what’s the final verdict ? Its just a way to show the world you have a say, but deep down, they have already made up their minds, so its just generating internet traffics for no good clause, may be less e-Petition could cut down own bandwidth usage as it doesn’t seem to make a slight difference.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Time for a new petition

    Dear Number 10,

    We the undersigned, propose that (blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah) and by now you're not even listening, are you government?

    -Joe Public

  10. Tony Humphreys

    Hardly surpriding

    If our overlords refused to listen to 2 and a half million of us against road pricing / tracking they are hardly likely to bother about a few thousand fat pipes not being so fat.

  11. Jocke Selin

    Rubbish on so many levels

    The petitions are utter rubbish - I signed this one, and the answer was totally deflating. Same as with any of the petitions I've signed. Rubbish. 10 Downing Street is just like any other political instance; avoids doing anything or answering questions.

    Same goes for Unlimited. If you advertise "Unlimited" it should be "Unlimited" as defined in the English language - look it up in a dictionary and the service should be in compliance to that. If it's not, it should be illegal. It doesn't matter if there's a small print or not, it's what's advertised that's the key point.

    I'd also like to put up a petition to stop using the word 'Free' in advertising. If something is 'Free' it should either be free in the sense that it has not been captured (bird), or 'Free' as in not having to pay anything. So a 'Free' mobile phone means that; I don't have to sign up to _anything_, nor pay anything etc. It's free, just as if I found it on the street and it would be legally mine. Again, the definition in an English dictionary should be stronger than some legal mumbo-jumbo fine-print.

    ... rubbish, being keyword... :(

  12. Paul Buxton

    Re: What is the point?

    But as the government never allow the petitions site to influence their politics this petition is doomed to fail.

  13. Luke Wells

    Redefining the dictionary

    Anyone fancy a job?

    UNLIMITED salary! (capped at £10k p/a)

    You also get UNLIMITED use of a company car (capped at 0miles)

  14. Brian Wright

    Here's the email

    You recently signed a petition asking the Prime Minister to "Insist that

    OFCOM and the ASA stop Broadband Providers advertising 'unlimited' services

    that are in fact limited in the small print or by un-defined fair use


    The Prime Minister's Office has responded to that petition and you can view

    it here:

    Prime Minister's Office

    Petition information -

    If you would like to opt out of receiving further mail on this or any other

    petitions you signed, please email

  15. Ross Fleming Silver badge

    No publicity for e-petitions + too easy

    Is it any wonder e-petitions don't work? Petitions were usually the domain of people who were enthusiastically trying to change something for the better and involved standing out in the street trying to get signatures from passers-by.

    The e-system enables pretty much anyone with half a brain to submit a cause and using chain email to get it backed. The amount of hairbrained ideas submitted must be impossible to filter effectively, rendering the system useless - and that's just the ones that have clogged up my inbox from friends and family.

    Also - if you remember back to the big petitions of yester-year, they all involved a newscrew outside Downing Street taking pictures of people handing in a big wad of signatures. Everyone got to see it happen. So far I've yet to have a newscrew round my house when I click the "I Agree".

    A physical petition stands for something and shows the effort and belief. An electronic takes that away. This comments page demonstrates that - if people had to get a pen + paper, write a letter, pay for a stamp and send it to El Reg, I guarantee you'd only get the strongest of opinions. This comment no exception - I wouldn't have paid for a stamp to do it.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In defence of BT

    "Most failures are due to BT's infrastructure (lack of) reliability."

    All but a handful of providers are part of the BT Wholesale supplier chain and the unfortunate BT becomes a whipping boy for anything that goes wrong. The fact that they provide the connection infrastructure as well does not help. All it takes is Transco (utilities maintenance company for non-UK readers) to dig up the wrong bit of pavement and we blame BT.

    Having said that, we should think ourselves lucky because without ISPs constantly beating BT up, us consumers would be in a far worse place.

  17. Barry

    E-Petition for the Ending of E-Petitions

    Leigh made a great suggestion so off I popped to the petitions website and did a search. I didn't have to start my own as somebody already agrees that the system is rigged and is therefore worthless...

  18. SImon Hobson Silver badge

    And TheReg fails to pick up on ...

    ... the fact that the PMs office issued an oft repeated lie on the day Gordon moved in ! Is that a record, lies issued by the PMs office on the day he moves in, most PMs like to get their feet under the table first ?

    And what am I referring to ? Why of course, that old chestnut the 'speed' scameras. They repeat teh same distorted statistics previously used, and discredited, to show that speed scameras really do work and we should be jolly pleased to have them !

    I wonder if Gordon was behind these 'so called' car bombs - it's been a nice distraction for everyone !

  19. John

    Re: If you want a fair "fair usage policy"

    "Anyway Demon's fair use moniters your b/w usage over 10 days and if you are in the top 1% or so you get throttled."

    Its a 30day period, unless they changed something since I looked. You are capped for a 30day period (128kbit afaik), then if you have behaved and are back under (the unpublished) limit you get your full bandwidth back, if you are still over then you get another 30days punishment. The 'top 1%' thing (unless you have insider knowledge) is guesswork incidently, it hasn't been confirmed anywhere I have seen.

    Demon aren't one of the 'good guys' as they do not publish nor tell you what the limit is if you call them (and I have called), you only find out when you break the unpublished 'fair use' limit.

    I've been with Demon myself several years, I am happy with them in every other way, and there is no point ditching them as every other ADSL isp uses this 'fair use' bol****s.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Write to your MP...

    ...instead. Sometimes they're prepared to buck the party line.

  21. John

    Demon 'fair use'

    Just checked, and Demon have actually now posted the actual amount that gets you reamed in their FUP. 60gb and 50gb are the magic numbers you don't want to pass on a rolling 30day period or thou shall be damned with hellfire and brimstone, or more accurately a 128kbit limit for 30days, fancy thinking unlimited meant unlimited... pfft.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Unlimited = Unlimited ?

    Not on your nelly!

    Personally, I'll stick with my limited broadband. I know my limits, they email me when I hit 50% and I can track how much I've used any time I choose.


    All of this unlimited nonsense sounds like advertising/headline grabbing waffle. If they won't put up what triggers the FUP, they might as well sell snake oil.


  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What else do you expect

    Since this government doesn't seem to have the same understanding of "legal, decent, honest and truthful and prepared with a sense of responsibility" as the rest of us, what do you expect?

  24. Turbojerry

    Why they have e-petitions

    I think some people here are under the impression that the point of e-petitions is to do something, wrong! They are there so people can blow off steam rather than going all Tony Martin on them, as Neo would say, “the e-petition was a lie. It was just another system of control.”

  25. GettinSadda

    80% is OK?

    So, the official line is that as long as what you advertise is true for 80% of people that sign up to your service - that's OK.

    Great! I have an idea that will put the AA and RAC out of business at a stroke...

    "Super-Service Breakdown Cover"

    Just pay £100 per year and if your car breaks down, and our mechanic can't fix it at the roadside then don't worry about us towing you home, we will pay for a taxi to take you home where a brand new car will be waiting for you.

    Hidden in the small print of the contract will be reference to the fair-use clause that points you to a Word document that you can download from our website with the FUP which includes mention that this only applies where the broken down car is less that 7 days old. As long as less that 20% of people that take out our policy do have a major breakdown then my adverts that say "If we can't fix your car at the roadside we will replace it with a brand new one" will be OK - after all our shiny new PM said you only have to keep 80% of the punters happy for it to be legal!

  26. Ross Fleming Silver badge

    Try Be

    Be Broadband seem to be a good bet. Been using them for about 18 months now. Get roughly 14Mb/sec (fairly close to the exchange!) and so far haven't been penalised for limits. They do have a "fair use" policy but I can't honestly imagine an ISP doing without one anymore. If I used the full extent of mine, I could be downloading 148Gb PER DAY at my back of fag packet (but not in a public enclosed area of course) calculation. Not something any company could cope with after multiplying across 1000's of users. Especially when you consider the contention rates which are usually about 50:1 for retail customers.

    However, if you are getting punished for it, switch supplier or address your data usage. Failing that get a leased line and realise why there is such a price differential.

    All reminds me of the days when I signed up to "unlimited" texts with BT Genie - unlimited until you sent too many (think I was up to 2000 in one month), but then I knew it would come eventually.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Downing St e-petitions website... basically a phishing site....purely there to get your details...and then spam you all. Nothing at all to do with suggestions or, heaven forbid, democracy.

  28. Lee Sexton

    Sign this one!

    Okay, I signed the last petition and knew that it wasn't the correct way to go due to the wording. I have created one for the actual throttling of the service, this is not the same as "unlimited" in the fact that most ISP's are throttling people REGARDLESS of useage at peak times (anywhere from 4pm to 1am) and therefore there is no get-out for them to say it's an ASA issue because this isn't an advertising issue, this is theft as far as I am concerned. Imagine your SKY only showing BBC1 during peak time even though you are paying for everything? I think it's the same issue, and seeing as how the other peition was rendered useless I think this is another angle to pursue, they can't bury their heads in the sand on ALL issues!

    I have also written to my local MSP and MP, the MP has written to the minister in charge (Margaret Hodge) who has now written to OFCOM demanding some answers, of course OFCOM bury their heads in the sand over this one (as detailed on their website - "complain to your ISP"). I have mad it abundantly clear that I don't know any ISP that isn't throttling, so we can't all complain to each and every individual ISP, this needs intervention by the government.

    It is of course going to affect business in the UK, my business connection at work gets throttled down to stupid speeds, even though we use vpn and remote desktop we struggle with our speeds, this is during the day too which is not on. If it continues at the rate it is going things are going to get worse.

    So anyway, thats my rant, I don't expect a miracle from this one, but just because the government buries their head in the sand doesn't mean we should too, thats not the answer :)

    Please sign.

  29. Mark

    Democracy at work?

    More depressing than the response from the govt is that people actually seem to have expected better from the masters of hot air. Like so many touchy-feely "hey we're all in it together" new labour initiatives, this is just another facile way of stopping people asking for any real say in how we're governed. A bit like a kids toy mobile phone; it looks the part, makes the right noises, but provides nothing more than entertainment.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Sign this one!

    To what Lee Sexton wrote. For the things you are using ADSL for (VPN, Remote Desktop) like you say, you should be using a Leased Line or SDSL where you are guaranteed no throttling and in some cases a SLA. Why don't they throttle these connections? Because they cost more? Why? Because they are giving you dedicated connectivity to the internet.

    When you think that people like Level(3), Abovenet et al can charge anything upto £40/mbit/s (Depend's on how much bandwidth you take) and that your ADSL Provider need's to pay someone to get off of their network... you can see how the costs mounts up.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm not for the way they put things, but you can either have FUP (which to be honest most people don't hit [Unless your on Virgin Media :p]) which is somewhat dynamic where they don't list a value, or you can have "We'll give you 20GB Month, and then charge you stupid ammounts for overage's like they do with real connectivity". Or you could go back to the old dialup speeds :)

    If you expect to be able to abuse your connection every month, then wake up and smell the coffee because it's not cheap being a broadband provider when people do that!

  31. Lickass McClippers

    Signed up too...

    No doubt, it'll be ignored too...

  32. Tim

    Representative of the people?

    Surely parliament is where the buck stops! We are supposedly living in a democratic country so who represents us? As stated above, every petition has been glazed over.

    Who do we go to, TVLicenses, Broadband, Congestion nauseum.

    Parliament need to be taken to task, who is willing to champion the cause, why do we pay our taxes???

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