When subscribing to an internet service whether it's prepay or postpay (contract), there are certain responsibilities that is required from you. Internet service providers (ISPs) also have responsibilities, which will be discussed next week.
More often the obligations and responsibilities are outlined in the contract or agreement particularly for postpay customers. Those on prepay may find these in the terms and conditions of use of a service often found on the ISP's website or in documentation provided when you first purchase a prepaid simcard or phone.
Often ISPs and most other telecommunication providers have a fair use policy or fair usage policy (FUP).
1. Under the FUP, the ISP may ask you to take responsibility over your internet use. Although some ISPs may provide "unlimited downloads", they often ask you to be responsible when taking advantage of this offer. Why? You need to understand that the internet runs on a shared network, meaning that all users hooked up on the internet are actually sharing the network, for example, being on a bus to school or work in the morning where passengers are sharing one bus. While you can be in the comfort of your home and browsing through the internet by yourself, you are actually in a kind of public space where other users are also present.
Internet connections are shared and ISPs often have what they call their contention ratio. That is, the maximum number of users hooked up to keep the network at its optimum connectivity or speed. It can be in the form of 100 per line. It is therefore important that users be responsible, especially, those who are in the habit of downloading large amounts of data (such as videos or music) all the time. One user or a group of users of internet activity does have an effect on the shared network. For example, if 500 users are downloading movies at the same time, this can affect the speed of the network to which these and other users are hooked up. The heavy downloading habit of these users does have an effect on other customers who may be using the internet for more useful purposes.
2. The FUP may also require that you use the internet for lawful purposes only. ISPs often require as a condition of service that you do not use your network for illegal schemes like pornography, hacking, electronic fraud etc. Because of the nature of the internet, ISPs and even telecommunications regulators require that you do not use it for such illegal and or dangerous activities. While the internet has provided you convenience, access to information and other positive things, it is important to bear in mind that it can also be utilised for darker motives.
3. You are responsible for keeping your password confidential and you should immediately inform the ISP if this has been compromised. Customers who divulge their password to others face risks with their accounts. Others may use and abuse their account, and there is a high risk of their account being used by unscrupulous persons for illegal activities eg pornography, hacking or internet fraud.
You are often asked to assume all responsibility and liability for the activities of someone who has used your internet connection (with permission). So if you have given your account details to someone to use and that person engages in some devious scheme or causes a virus to affect the network, you and not that person bears all responsibility and liability.
4. ISPs also require their customers to acknowledge that some material on the internet may be offensive, inappropriate or unsuitable. One ISP has a clause in its contract which reads: "You acknowledge this and that we do not accept any responsibility for contents offered by other individuals or companies on the internet or for any other information passing through the service." In other words, what you see on the internet and the contents of a news webpage is not the responsibility of the ISP, but that of the webpage owner or administrator.
5. ISPs also ask you to ensure that you have anti-virus software and that this is updated regularly for data security. Anti-virus or anti SPAM software is very important for internet users. This is not only required to protect you but also protect the network and other consumers who share it.
6. ISPs also ask you to agree that no minors (children) or any other person use your account unless they have your permission and are under your personal supervision.
7. Some ISPs specifically ask you not to redistribute the service to others, unless you have subscribed to a package that allows this.
8. And finally, of course, paying your bill on time is your responsibility particularly for postpay customers as you use the service first before paying. A fundamental rule for you is to always keep copies of your bill, receipts etc with you. You need to confront your ISPs with queries if you are not sure about anything.
* Next week: ISP responsibilities