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Know your limits in the battle of the broadband

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webwatch

Broadband is a funny old thing - a bit like VDU screens, whose size is billed in inches measured diagonally across the screen (with a couple of inches added, possibly for fun or possibly to cheat us poor old consumers). It reminds me of an old sci-fi story in which all automobile speedos were adjusted in the factory so that they registered around 100mph when drivers were really doing 30.

Flat screens and vigilant advertisingstandard bodies put paid to this for LCD screens, which is why a 17-inch LCD is about the same real size as a 19-inch cathode-ray-tube monitor. Not so with broadband, however. You sign up for a 1MB system and the maximum download speed is actually 130KB - not all that much faster than the less expensive 0.5MB standard. As I have mentioned before, changing broadband providers is not straightforward - especially when they put a cap on the amount you can download. Sheffield internet service provider PlusNet has recently sidelined several hundred of its clients who exceeded what the company considers 'reasonable' - actually hundreds of gigabytes.

Several weeks ago, I was mildly critical of the new 8MB UK Online for its restriction of around 4GB of data per day - it's called a 'transmission rate cap'. But what is a reasonable daily download figure? IT news site The Register says that 'according to industry figures, the average usage per subscriber is 7GB a month'. I can't find any verifiable figures but you can apparently check your current usage if you are using Windows XP - take a look at www. pcworld. com/howto/article/ 0, aid,116037,00. asp for the method.

For the record, BT apparently limits me to downloading 30GB a month. And the new Eclipse internet service, which does a speed of 2MB for £15 a month, sets a monthly download limit of just 1GB, after which you pay £1.75 per gig.

Yes, per gig. All these make UK Online seem overly generous. Time to take a longer look at them? sutherland. lyall@btinternet. com

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