Looking forward to the type of uncapped data plans broadband users in Asia, the US and Europe enjoy? Think again.

Prospects for such flat-rate pricing for broadband took a giant leap backwards this week with Telecom’s decision to can its $69.95 per month Big Time plan.

I just received this email from Telecom spokeslady Emma Kate Greer:

As you have may have read this morning Telecom’s Big Time broadband plan has been removed from our broadband line-up. I remember you were a Go Large customer — did you also give Big Time a go?

As you know Telecom has been the only ISP in NZ to provide a broadband plan that has no set monthly data allowance – we have made successive attempts to give customers this innovation, but unfortunately it is simply proving unviable.

We are conscious we have a range of customers who enjoy using this plan, but managing the traffic of an extreme minority has made the plan increasingly hard to manage and keep in market. We are seeing some customers using astounding amounts of internet data – in the terabytes each month which is equivalent to downloading more than 1000 movies.

We try to manage certain types of activity on the plan to ensure availability of bandwidth, but over the past few months we have seen an increasing use of technology that is specifically designed to circumvent traffic management.

We have been making updates to our technology to keep up with these software programmes, but the resource and work needed to continually do that has also become untenable.

We recognise it was relatively brave to launch this plan and certainly we’ve been the only ISP to try a plan with no monthly data cap. We wanted to give our customers this option. It is not possible to achieve innovation without trying new things and sometimes those things won’t come off.

Customers using the Big Time plan will be communicated with in the coming months and given advanced notice before we need to move them to another option. We will look at their average data usage and recommend the best option for them.

Naturally we will also make sure customers are completely free to move to other ISPs if they chose to.

Those with high data use may suit the Pro plan. We are adjusting the price of overage on our Pro plan (monthly plan price of $79.95) which has the largest monthly data allowance (40GB) — previously it was $20 per Gigabyte (GB) and now it is $2 per GB (or part thereof).

We appreciate that there will be a small number of extreme users who will not be happy with this outcome (and of course neither are we) but we hope that one of our other broadband plans may suit them.

Bandwidth vampires to blame?

I was a Go Large customer but I ditched that plan due to the unsatisfactory speeds I was getting. I moved to an Orcon naked DSL plan (broadband only, no phone) and have been very impressed with the transfer speeds and reliability of service.

As Chris Keall points out, the irony here is that Telecom’s Australian arm AAPT has bene making inroads in the broadband market (finally) with an uncapped data plan.

Telecom set itself up as a target for heavy broadband users with the launch of frist Go Large, then Big Time so it really should have foreseen this and had a plan to cope with the traffic management issues. Ultimately, the plan has failed because it is too expensive from a bandwidth point of view and too complicated to manage individual users without having a major impact on performance for a large number of customers. But if we had cheaper international connectivity, more bandwidth would be available at a lower price and such traffic management techniques wouldn’t be as necessary.

Here’s hoping the Pacific Fibre backers are getting some interest in their plan for a second trans-Pacific fibre cable… whether we get unlimited broadband plans in future may hinge on whether they succeed or not…