Virgin Media has changed its restrictions on the amount you can download, slowing your connection if you overdo your Internet use at busy times -- but only for an hour or two.
The adjusted policy brings in new thresholds at which you'll find your connection reduced under Virgin Media's subscriber traffic management (STM) policy. Virgin's new system only slows your connection for an hour or two, giving you the chance to ease up on your downloading so Virgin can restore your connection to full speed after a short while.
Traffic management, or throttling, is the practice of cutting the amount of Internet you can suck up into your computer if your broadband provider thinks you're sucking up too much.
Every Internet service provider does it -- they spot if you're using lots of bandwidth and restrict the flow of data to your computer so as not to ruin it for everyone else.
Virgin's restrictions only apply at busy times: 4pm until 11pm on weekday evenings, and from 11am to 11pm on weekends. All peer-to-peer downloading and newsgroups are slowed during these times, but casual use like video streaming, music downloads and VoIP calls shouldn't cross the line.
You can download to your heart's content overnight or during the day.
Virgin reckons around 5 per cent of users are currently stuffing so much Internet into their gaping gullets that they'll find their connections squeezed.
Connections can be throttled by 30 or 40 per cent, or as much as 75 per cent on upstream connections. Upload limits are much lower, so watch out if you back up lots of data to the cloud: even if you don't think of yourself as a heavy user, your computer might be quietly tipping the scales by backing up lots of films or music or other files to online storage. Fortunately, restrictions only apply to the direction in which the limit was breached -- if only your upload connection is restricted, downloads continue as normal.
Virgin also says it's working on improving the system so you're not continually penalised if you overdo it once.
Have you been affected by traffic management? How do you feel about your Internet speed? Tell me your thoughts in the comments or on our Facebook page.