Safaricom has found itself at the center of a national conversation, this time in a very negative way. This followed the company’s announcement that it was permanently increasing the speeds of the Home Fiber Internet, something it had done after the outbreak of COVID-19.

However, hidden in Safaricom's Terms and Conditions was a new clause on Fair Usage Policy which introduced limits to the amount of data that one can download per month, after which the speed would be throttled. This came as a surprise to many.

In the Fair Usage Policy, users are limited to a maximum data transfer limit as shown below, and the speeds are adjusted accordingly.

Safaricom's Fair Usage Policy details compared regarding its Home Fibre Internet offerings.

Customers felt that Safaricom had unfairly changed the terms of service and this led to an outcry. Unfortunately, Safaricom is largely to blame for failing to communicate effectively on this matter. While the company was shouting on rooftops about double speeds, the fair usage policy was hidden in the terms and conditions. Users felt like Safaricom was hiding something.

Safaricom says that the new measures are meant to tame resellers who are reselling the Home Fibre Internet, but many consumers feel that the new measures are putting a limit to what used to be unlimited internet.

The myth of unlimited internet

Although many broadband connections are marketed as "unlimited internet," the term is a misleading because there is nothing like an infinite internet capacity, especially when running on finite resources.

If one has an unlimited internet connection with a speed of 20 Mbps, the maximum amount of data that can be transferred is 20 Megabits per second or about 2.5 MB per second. This translates to 150 MB per minute, 8.8 GB per hour, 210 GB per day, and 6 TB per month. No matter how you use the service, you cannot surpass these limits because it is technically not possible.

The above would only be possible on a dedicated internet link. Safaricom home fibre is a shared link where you share the connection with three other people. This means that if they are also using the connection to the max, the total amount of data that one could transfer per month is only 1.5 TB.  The good thing is that it is highly unlikely that everyone has the same usage patterns hence the speeds are usually higher than that.

A fair usage policy is helpful to ensure that no one utilizes the service at the expense of other people. This involves resellers of the service. However, Safaricom went with very conservative figures away from what is possible. A 20 Mbps connection has potential for at least 1.5 TB per month and 6 TB when your neighbors are on holiday, but Safaricom has limited that to only 1 TB.

What informed this?

Getting rid of resellers

According to Safaricom, the data limit was established using the average consumption per user during the peak usage time. The peak usage was in July 2020 during the Covid-19 lockdown. Safaricom says that they took the average usage then which was about 200 GB per month for every Bronze user, and are now limiting the usage to 350 GB.

Although many broadband connections are marketed as "unlimited internet," the term is a misleading because there is nothing like an infinite internet capacity, especially when running on finite resources. (Tweet this | Share via WhatsApp)

This is near twice the normal usage, and by this, they hope to catch people who are reselling the service.

This means that majority of the users will not be affected by the capping, but there are always outliers who will be negatively impacted. The only option they have is to go for a dedicated connection which is quite expensive. However, even with that, it is not available in most residential places hence not an option.

Safaricom has also not fairly considered people who are using higher packages. If you are on the 40 or the 100 Mbps package, the fair usage limit is 1TB after which the speed is reduced to 3 Mbps. It would make sense to have a limit for the more expensive packages. That Safaricom left similar limits for these packages to those of 20 Mbps could be because resellers usually go for those packages.

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