Over the years, cell, long distance, and cable companies have advertised “unlimited” services, but a close reading of the fine print almost always reveals that the services are not truly unlimited.
Last year, in the UK, ASA, the private organization that enforces a voluntary advertising code, came down hard on Carbonite — the online file backup service that sends a copy of the files from your home computer up to the “cloud” for safekeeping.
In both the US and UK, Carbonite advertised “unlimited” backup service for an annual service fee:
Buried in their UK website was an unexpected catch:
Bandwidth Throttling: Yes (35GB, 200GB)
Huh? Even buried deeper in the site in a blog post was an explanation:
Carbonite Home allocates more bandwidth to users doing a typical initial backup of less than 35GB, and less to users after their backup exceeds 200GB. Once your initial backup is complete, updates to your backup usually take only a few minutes each day.
This bandwidth policy has three tiers. Users performing a smaller backup will usually see faster upload speeds than users with larger backups. However, depending on your Internet connection, your computer’s configuration, other Internet-enabled software you may be running, and how often you use your computer, actual backup speeds may vary. The current maximum upload speeds are as follows:
– The first 35GB of data can achieve upload speeds of up to 2 mbps (megabits per second).
– Between 35GB and 200GB of data, upload speeds can reach up to 512 kbps (kilobits per second).
– At 200GB or more of data, upload speeds are limited to around 100 kbps (kilobits per second).
In plain English, just like some cell companies that slow down your connection when you use more than a certain allotment of data, so does Carbonite. They throttle your upload connection down to a crawl when you are uploading a lot of files. The result is that while you think you have backed up all your files, it may take weeks to actually do so, if you have a large hard drive.
The advertising watchdog in the UK felt this limitation was not made clear to consumers who signed up for unlimited service and therefore ruled against them ordering that they more clearly disclose the upload limitation.