How Selfish Users Can Mess With Off-Peak ISP Deals

How Selfish Users Can Mess With Off-Peak ISP Deals
speedlimitIf your ISP offers separate peak and off-peak download limits, it makes sense to schedule large downloads to happen overnight and not risk being shaped or paying excess fees each month. But not all consumers seem willing to go along with that strategy.

John Linton, managing director of ISP Exetel, wrote an interesting blog post this week about why Exetel changed its off-peak period from 12 hours to 10 hours. The reason? A small group of users couldn’t be persuaded to set downloads for later during the peak period, despite being asked:

Rather than using the virtually unused 3 am to 7 am period to set a schedule of downloads our user base insisted on starting them at one second past midnight EVERY night and, for over 90% of those users their downloads were completed by 12.30 am EVERY morning. Could they be persuaded to start their downloads after 2 am?……nothing we could do for five plus years could make that happen.

Of course, if a company offers a set off-peak period, you’re entitled to use it how you like — but equally you shouldn’t be surprised if the policy changes after more effective ways to use it have been pointed out and ignored. All the managers featured in our Hive Five of the best BitTorrent applications include scheduling features, so it’s not hard to do.

How do you manage your own downloads to minimise impact? Share your strategies in the comments.

Picture from Wikimedia Commons

If At The First, Second, Third…. Nth Time You Don’t Succeed….. [John Linton’s Personal Musings]


  • I know I’m guilty of this behaviour myself. I’ve never thought about it from the ISPs perspective, and doubt many do. Given this, an ISP could further ‘encourage’ this behaviour by having say a ‘mid-peak’ category from say midnight to 3am where the data is counted as half peak half off-peak, or it could have a ‘super-off-peak’ from 3-7am where not only is it off-peak, but the downloads only count as say half data. If they’ve already got the systems to count data into peak/off buckets, these sorts of things should be achievable!

  • How exactly are you being “selfish” by downloading within your limit in the time allocated to you?
    You have to expect users to download whenever they want and not when it is convenient for their ISP. After all, what are you paying them for?

    Secondly, of course users are going to be more likely to start downloads at 12am instead of at 3am, simply because they are much more likely to be awake.

    Personally i schedule my downloads using uTorrent if i suspect that i will go over my peak usage.

  • Unless of course you’re actually saving electricity and saving on your bills by switching these devices off completely when you’re sleeping. Even more so if you got a lousy humming desktop PC. So it is quite understandable why some of this ISPs customers did not change their habits.

    The fault is assuming everyone has an “always on” connection.

  • By their own admission, the required change is of their Exetel’s own failure. It is a “failure of communication and a shocking indictment of my personal terrible inability to persuade people”. This can be seen in the customer responses to that blog post of being uninformed.

    This has nothing to do with the selfishness of users as this headline proclaims. Off-peak is by definition the period when infrastructure has least utilisation. Just because Exetel’s supplier agreements of peak and off-peak don’t match the “free” periods it gives it’s customers is the mistake of Exetel’s management alone. It has nothing to do with the user. The mistake lies in trying to sell that difference as an “advantage” over its competitors.

  • What a pointless whinge and it makes me glad I’m not with Exetel. He makes it sound like he’s amputating a testicle in moving from the 12/12hour symmetry to something else that works better like most other ISP’s do. The failure of communication he talks about seems spot on though as many comments and people I talk to had no idea of the dilemma. Couldn’t it have gone in a newsletter or comms of some sort to the user base?

  • The only reason I am still with Optus cable since it started is that their off peak is 12PM to 12AM – I just returned from Portugal and was amazed that they are offering Fibre to home for AU$60 a month – I asked about their download limit and they gave me a blank stare – did not have a clue what I was talking about!

  • “If your ISP offers separate peak and off-peak download limits, it makes sense to schedule large downloads to happen overnight and not risk being shaped or paying excess fees each month.”

    That is if your ISP allows this behaviour. I remember reading somewhere in iiNet’s terms of service that scheduling software is not allowed. Now that is an even worse stance than Exetel’s

  • Yes, after living in the UK and US without download limits, the restrictions here are awful.

    I’ve also tried lobbying Microsoft (without success) to allow you to restrict updates to the off-peak window. I’ve had some massive service packs come through near end of month and wipe out my peak download allowance.

    The Windows Update controls only allow you to specify install times, not download times. I’ve asked on various forums if there’s a port I can block via my router but no joy there either.

  • I set the first and last hours of my off-peak time to run at a limited download speed (say 30kb/s) and in between those hours I run them at full-speed. That way if I or another member of the household are awake late, or up early, the downloads aren’t really affecting general browsing.

  • Being in a house with 3 tech-heads means we use a full 200GB every month without fail, 60/140 on/off peak. TPG seems to fix this issue by offering the users who use the most bandwidth (the top tier plan people like me) the least amount of time to use their off peak downloads. The plan before mine begins off peak at 3, the one before that at 2. Seems smart planning like this would solve this problem?

  • For what it’s worth, had cause, not long ago, for Optus Cable to query my “excessive” upload and was told that they expected uploads not to exceed about 50% of the “peak” limit.

    • FWIW, I believe the excessive upload queries are only for people on Cable. This is likely due to the restricted upstream bandwidth available on Cable?

      I’m on Optus ADSL2+ and upload around 130-140GB per month (and download my full 60GB per month) and have not had any queries in the 12+ months I’ve been doing this for….. and my private tracker ratio is fantastic, btw 😛

      • My upload counts as dl. Sucks alot of cork.

        We go through the 70gb limit around 1-2 weeks prier. Than download like hell. Unlimited 1mb connection.

  • bah.. what a load of shit!

    us australians don’t even have unlimited accounts like the rest of the fucking world… so i’m gonna fucking use it however-i-fucking-like YOU BASTARDS!!!!

  • I have unlimited downloads with Comcen. I know the speed is low but at least I never have a changing bill, and can do whatever the hell I want with my bandwidth.

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