Apologies in advance for another off-topic post on the Blog, but just had to share this update on some of the complaints I leveled against HughesNet back in my May article “The end of HughesNet as we know it, and I feel fine)”, mostly regarding their FAP policy for controlling bandwidth usage and the poor implementation thereof.
If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear someone over there must have read what I posted and did something about it. Amazing. Granted, the invitation did appear to be mass mailing, but given how closely the new program lined up with my complaints and suggestions I still have to wonder.
So here’s the skinny…
Background (if you didn’t read the first article):
If you go over your daily allotment of 200-400MB/day, depending on how “premium” your individual plan is, HughesNet puts you in FAP (Fair Access Policy) mode that throttles your bandwidth for 24 hours. My testing indicates that the throttled speed varies somewhat, but is in the neighborhood of a 14.4K modem speeds. That is pretty much useless given the average size of a just about anything on the Net worth looking at. No appeals, sorry Charlie!
Complaint 1: After quite a bit of backlash, they finally provided a way to check if you were in penalty mode, but made it impossible to determine how close you were hitting the threshold. By being secretive about the exact calculation for what puts you in FAP, the only way to know what you have left is to go over. Then it is too late.
Looks like definite progress. The fine print elsewhere on the beta site indicates, however, that the initial version is only going to tell you if you are in FAP or not, which you can already find out if you know what you are doing. Also, it looks like the planned versions that tells you how close you are to the limit will only be available on HN9000 modems. But don’t take my word for it…
And, with an upcoming software update, HN9000 users will be able to see their remaining allowance in real-time, so you’ll always know exactly how much data you have left.
Complaint 2: The policy is supposed to be about stopping bandwidth hogs, but the limits are so low that even casual users are likely to trip them. Once it is tripped, you are going to wait the 24 hours with no recourse. Tech support told me on more than one occasion that they didn’t have the capability to reset the meter for anyone. Even if the FAP was accidentally triggered by something like a virus or accidental Windows update running early they were powerless to help you. Once in a fit of desperation I even offered to upgrade to a higher plan if they would remove the throttle early, but no can do. Even if you buy the super premium plan, more than 500MB a day is ain’t gonna happen.
It looks HughesNet users will soon be able to get their hands on indulgences in the form of tokens that get you out of the penalty mode immediately. According to the beta announcement each user will get one of these free every month as a get out of jail free card for accidental bandwidth “excesses.” For more chronic offenders, like myself, more will be available for purchase. These tokens can be redeemed to reset your cap for the day and get you out of FAP, if necessary. Additional tokens are going priced according to your service plan as follows:
|Plan||Price per Token|
The next time I have an urgent work project and hit the FAP limit this will definitely be a preferable to scouting out a coffee shop with Wi-fi. Again, in their own words…
By redeeming a Restore Token, your Daily Allowance is immediately reset, returning you to full speed. Your Download Allowance is not changed by purchasing a Token, and this fresh Download Allowance does not roll over into the next 24-hour period.
There are a few other announcements in the e-mail that sound mostly like re-packaging of what they already offered, including a FAP-Free window from 2am-7am where your usage doesn’t count against your daily limits. However, they are providing their own branded download manager to help you schedule big downloads for that window, which also ameliorates the situation somewhat.
The Bottom line
These are very positive steps and show that maybe Hughes has finally decided that they care about keeping customers, or at least are worried about the types of things I predicted in my previous article on the topic. In any case, it sounds like it will make things a little more tolerable for those of forced to use satellite Internet.
Ultimately however, they are going to have to find a way to raise the bandwidth caps by at least an order of magnitude if they hope to compete anywhere except the captive market they have now, i.e. rural customers with no other option.