Broadband internet service provider Plusnet today announced that it is offering customers the option of scheduling large downloads overnight when web connections are at less of a premium. While this will help even things out for Plusnet’s servers by spreading the peak usage times across a larger daily timespan, it will also be a sop to consumers fed up with often miserly broadband usage allowances.

Broadband Your Way, as Plusnet’s 1GB to 40GB per month-by-month broadband contracts are known, cost from £10 to £30 a month for access between 8am and midnight. Outside these hours, Plusnet customers can schedule large software, music and video downloads without affecting on their monthly broadband usage limits. The service goes live from today.

Whereas broadband was originally marketed as an always-on, fixed rate per month service, as connection rates have got faster and faster and the types of content consumers want to download have become increasingly unwieldy, so ISPs have found it necessary to limit the amount of data customers pull down each month.

Plusnet has therefore calculated that it may be able to pick up disgruntled customers from other ISPs who have fallen foul of the fair usage policies that are applied but often seem arbitrary. Some customers have found they have slower connections towards the end of a billing month as they approach or reach what their ISP deems acceptable use or have instead been charged for gigabytes used over and above the stated limit. Downloading hefty music, software or movie files are among the key reasons customers are keen to enjoy generous or uncapped broadband but these very activities are precisely what push them close to monthly usage allowances or displease their ISPs.

Lately, there has consumer pressure for clearer usage guidelines for broadband, with the likes of USwitch and Ofcom asking broadband providers to make clearer whether they are offering unlimited broadband and to make their terms and conditions more prominent.

In addition, again in response to both consumer complaints and industry campaigns, Ofcom has recently tightened regulation of the broadband industry, forcing ISPs to hand over migration codes enabling customers to switch provider. With lengthy contracts from 6 to 18 months the norm in order to get the best value broadband deals, Plusnet is hoping that its no-ties broadband service will win new fans.