February 19, 2021 - 5 minutes read

The Internet – Our modern super highway & fair usage policies

By Mutindi Muema
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This week Kenyans have been talking of fair use policies, unlimited internet, the quality of fiber from the home and internet service providers in general. 

The discussion was sparked by the publication of Safaricom fair use policy for it’s home fiber services. On 18th February, the conversation moved to a policy discussion hosted by Lawyers Hub. The panel leading the conversation had representation from Industry- Safaricom and Liquid Telecom, Human rights representation- KICTANET & Lawyers Hub as well as Regulator representation- Communications Authority of Kenya.

Many questions were raised and the conversation spurred over two hours with very many lessons for the audience and panelists. The key points that emerged include:

 Fair Use Policies Are Not New

Fair use policies are not new or unique to Safaricom fiber for home services. Fair use policies (FUPs) have been around particularly in telecommunications and internet service provision for a very long time now.

 The FUPs are permitted in law, approved by the sector regulator and are geared to:

  • ensure fair access to internet services( in this case) for all users of the network at all times;
  • bar illegal resale of services by unlicensed persons. This is in line with the Kenya Information and Communication Act and regulations governing the telecommunications sector as well as the general legal framework enforced by Communications Authority across the globe;
  • ensure optimal network performance by ensuring the network is not adversely affected by extreme usage.

ISPs Implementing FUPs

All Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in Kenya have a fair use policy – some are transparent about their policies while most are not. The discussion sampled fair use policies from various ISPs as below:

 ISPFair Usage LimitThrottle Speed
1Safaricom Home fiber500GB for the Bronze Package (8mbps)1000GB for Silver and Diamond Packages (20+mbps)1mbps for Bronze3Mbps for Silver, Gold and Diamond
2Safaricom 4G Home plans200GB for 3mbs package400GB for 5mbps package1Mbs
3Telkom Home unlimited Bundle13.3GB/Day for unlimited daily plan16.6GB/Day for unlimited plus plan1Mbps, 512Kbps, 256Kbps & Cap at 400GB
4Zuku Unlimited Home Fiber PlansPeak usage hours (10am to 11pm)FUP automatically identifies extremely heavy bandwidth users and deprioritizes their speeds during peak hours
5Faiba JTLPeak usage HoursFUP automatically identifies extremely heavy bandwidth users and deprioritizes their speeds during peak hours

What the Research Says

  • Research conducted by Safaricom prior to publication of its fair use policies revealed that from the July 2020 peak fiber from home usage, the average fiber from home consumer needs only 200GB of data per month.

Safaricom set it’s fair usage policies way above the 200GB average use to ensure good customer experience for all its users including the heavier/above average users.

  •  Per research conducted by Lawyers Hub leading up to the policy discussion, 350GB of internet per month meets the need of most households in Kenya.

Per Ben Roberts- Group Chief Technology and innovation Officer at Liquid:

  1. Safaricom did a brave thing in being open and transparent about its policies, and in his opinion the fair usage policy as published is quite generous and caters for most customers.
  2. Fair usage policies are needed to promote access to affordable internet as well as to ensure good customer experience for everyone connected to the network.
  3. Most of the people who are aggrieved by fair use policies are abnormal users of the internet- mostly using it to do illegal things such as unlicensed reselling, downloading movies or content illegally and illegal activities should not be supported or protected under law or by industry.

Regulator View

The Communications Authority of Kenya supports the use of FUPs as a consumer protection tool used by ISPs to provide good customer experience for all customers on the network.

The Regulator is the watchdog of the sector as well as the umpire of conflicts between customer expectations and access to services with business needs and realities.

All FUPs are filed with the Regulator for review and approval before implementation and any customer aggrieved by any term or condition of service is encouraged to lodge a complaint with the ISP servicing them for the issue to be resolved.

Should the ISP fail to respond or resolve the customer issue, the customer can then escalate the matter to the Authority for redress.

Is Unlimited Internet Really Unlimited?

For most ISP plans in Kenya Yes!

You get access to all the internet you need. The only difference is that normal usage speeds are high, past normal usage metrics (which are different depending on the bundle) speed slows down a bit.

Different players offer different speeds for different bundles, with Telkom Home standing out as the most stringent with speed caps of 1Mbps, 512Kbps, 256Kbps and no access past 400GB of use on the Home bundle. 

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