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AltaVista UK Withdraws Unmetered Service In UK 133

WhiteWash writes "AltaVista's UK branch is terminating its offer of unmetred access, and blaming BT for the trouble as the BBC says at their news page. This was a good deal that provided an alternative to BT's monopolistic unmetred access options. Where does Britain turn now for unmetred access?" We originally touched on this subject a while back, for more background info.
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AltaVista UK Withdraws Unmetered Service In UK

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  • I use "freeserve time" which doesn't go thru BT.

    You're correct that the calls aren't billed via BT but you have to rent your line from BT, and keep the line BT, to use the freeserve offer.

    I don't have the info to hand but I think the Telecom partner may be Energis []. Although that could be my other ISP (U-NET []), or both.

  • Where was AltaVista planning on making its money from, exactly? A one-time 'administration' fee? A minute kickback from BT 0845 numbers?

    Look at the ISPs that have a successful free-call service (like WorldOnline, ClaraNET). Their money comes from Calls and Access provision - where they operate (or partner with) a piggyback access provider (like Localtel or whoever) and take a decent cut of the call charges, while also being able to profit from voice calls made from the same number. The free ISP access essentially acts as a catalyst to get people to use your telecoms service.

    The companies offering access for a 'one-time flat rate fee' don't especially inspire confidence in me - the disappearance of these services from the fly-by-night operations currently in place supports this.

    Don't put all the blame on BT. Yes, the local loop has to be unbundled, but this is a much wider problem. The telecoms infrastructure in this country isn't marvellous, and, in some areas, still suffers from load issues. It takes time to deregulate an industry, let's make sure it's done properly. In the meantime, check CUT [] for details of the unmetered access issues.

  • Yep - why do you think i just moved to within 10 mins walk of work? :)
  • by GregWebb ( 26123 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2000 @06:24AM (#838147)
    They're not the only ones.

    I'm online right now via Unlimited Freeserve Time, available to anyone with a BT line. This costs me 10 UKP per month, which I can (effectively) reduce by prefixing national rate calls with a dialler code. See, that £10 is technically buying that amount of national rate calls over Energis.

    I've had some problems with a badly setup cache box on their system sending my firewall mad - and a POP server doing the same thing on a smaller scale - but in other respects they're good. No discernable difference in performance from normal Freeserve (perfectly good), but no phone bill.

    I'm very happy with them and could recommend them to anyone else. Except, as a warning, that they're only taking 10,000 new users per week - took me 2-3 weeks IIRC to get added to the system.
  • May I suggest you get a Freeserve account? I too am a Demon customer, and here is the deal:

    Demon's Surftime is supposed to start soon (when was it supposed to start? October?). They are not going to charge extra for the use of their Surftime number for the evenings and weekends package at least.

    Freeserve don't charge at all, and are doing Surftime right now.

    So get Surftime now, use Freeserve with it for free (they even do a cashback of 3UKP every three months if you use them regularly on Surftime!). Then, when Demon roll out their Surftime number, you are already fully ready to use it from day one, because Surftime is not in any way associated with any one ISP, it just gives you access to the Surftime numbers (there is a Surftime national dialing code, just like there is a local-rate national dialing code, and signing up for Surftime just lets you use those numbers unmetered).

    Who knows, you might (like me) discover that other than the percieved lameness factor, Freeserve offer everything you want from an ISP. I am seriously considering leaving Demon now that I have tried Freeserve... The old Demon email address is a bit of a legacy though.

    And I should point out that this wasn't my original idea, a friend put me on to it. He is pretty happy with the scheme too.
  • Sorry to shatter your illusions, but Linux wasn't invented in the USA, therefore what are you doing here if you don't want non-USA stuff?

    I don't know if anyones ever explained to you what the first two W's in WWW stand for?

    Or what nationality Tim Berners-Lee is? Or what country Charles Babbage or Alan Turing came from, or where electricity was discovered?

    No didn't think so America boy. You stick your head back up your arse, it's probably a lot safer for you, nothing to challenge your way of thinking.

  • Here [] it is. Lots of articles, on the reasonable side of patronising.
  • And a debate on it here [].
  • I'm patiently waiting for ntl to reach Exeter - I've given up on Eurobell (local cable company) for a cable modem, but have heard that they actual exist from ntl. Since 56k modems from most ISPs in this country are a joke (crawl...). Plus It should be easier to get the rest of my hardware (the none windoze stuff) to share a cable modem).
  • Agreed. World Online [] have a very good service, IMO. I've been using them for over a year, with only two occasions of the slightest service interruption. Hooray for them!
  • Freeserve offering ADSL well in advance of BT. []

    Regret for the past is a waste of spirit

  • Yeah, that's right, the Americans saved our asses in World War One and Two, apparently. I'm not quite sure what those people who didn't have donkeys got, but there you go.

    It's a good job they didn't just pop along near the end and kill a few people then go home, otherwise where would the American film industry be?
  • by henley ( 29988 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2000 @03:40AM (#838156) Homepage
    Not only that, they are now blaming BT (My employer, #include ) for not providing the lines. Nice one Altavista.

    I certainly agree that AltaVista's finger-pointing at BT is a desperate attempt to avoid blame for this unmitigated disaster.

    Unfortunately for your illustrious company, however, it's a far too tempting target to shoot at. Regardless of the reality, the widespread perception is that BT is still a monopolistic quasi-governmental organisation with an inherent belief that the population of this little island should be gratefull for any morsels it happens to throw their way. You only have to look at the ADSL roll-out for a prime example (and ISDN before it) - BT won't even quote which *year* my exchange is going to be enabled, because I have the gall to live outside a megalopolis. Not that the so-called competition is helping one iota; you only have to look at the availability vs. penetration of cable-modem for that!

    So you can certainly see where the temptation to "spin" this story came from... It's not like this result doesn't favourably affect BT after all - all those disappointed AltaVista users turning to the only other supplier of unmetered access in the UK (no prizes for guessing the company... Starts with a "B")

    Regardless, in this instance it was wrong to attack BT. Just this once, mind!

  • I suggest you check back with Telewest (Blueyonder) about Surf Unlimited. I use it almost every day, and have had no major problems for months now. Nice and fast too.

  • Similar situation, I use Freeserve purely for my connectivity over ISDN. The throughput at times can be, shall we say, less than optimal, but for the price I don't think that it can be beaten (10GBP for what is effectively a 64Kbs leased line!). Especially as it allows my Linux boxen access throught my router - as you say, no special software is a blessing.

    I still use my (paid for) Demon Internet [] account for email and web hosting, but as their service has been in decline for a while now this may change.

  • by beebware ( 149208 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2000 @03:42AM (#838159) Homepage
    Yeah - I haven't even seen evidence that would suggest that if they had the phone lines, AV had the equipment to cope.
    I'll be trying NTLWorld [] shortly for unmetered internet access, but I'll also keep my Demon [] account active - they're due to have 'SurfTime' offerings soon.
    More details can be found at the following Register [] articles:
    And the list goes on... And that's just from 1 source - talk about publicity...
    Richy C. []
  • cable modems are [...] vapourware in this part of the country

    We've found that the NTL cable modem service has mostly worked. There've been a couple of outages a few hours long, and the performance was a bit poor the other night - I think the connection from Cambridge to London is getting a bit full.

    NTL have taken quite a bit of flack for the problems with providing free dialup, but personally I'm fairly happy with them at the moment; web browsing with graphics turned on is a joy compared to dialup, and interactive logins are snappy and responsive.

  • I recieved my 'unmetered' (0800 number) NTL CD this week, after a _very_ long wait - it appears that new subscribers to the service were prioritised over existing customers.
    Don't think so. I signed up in May, and received a (now useless) disc last week. Way to go NTL. If it arrived any later, I wouldn't have been here to receive it.
  • Did you have something in mind, how about some lovely Black Sausage? Or a pork pie, perhaps? We also have _real_ fish and chips, not those poxy French fries; and don't give me that sh!t about mayonnaise, that's the Belgians. BTW, why *are* they called "French fries"?
  • Probably because of the limited penetration of cable modem providers in the UK. We get NTL coming to the door, phoning up, etc., all the time trying to get us to take their TV/phone service, but ask them about cable modems, and it's "soon", "we'll get back to you", or mostly "what?!".
  • It's a great service, with both 24/7 and off-peak unmetered options available. The off-peak service costs only the standard line rental, and the 24/7 service is only about £5 more. However, I guess this company may never recover from the bad publicity it received in the early days with regard to transferring customers from BT etc. This is a shame.
  • It's funny I can't remember the last time I went to the Church of the Royal Family and worshiped there.

    It's the american tourists who seem to "worship" the royal family a lot more than the natives.

    You really should sell your story, to have had gay relations with one of the royals, perhaps the Weekly World news or whatever it is would take it.

    Who has to pay for medical treatment and who gets it for free?

    Have you got a mobile phone? What is it Nokia, Errikson? All good USAian companies.

    Do you use Linux? Oh of course, we just give away our innovations, whereas you stick the customer for whatever you can get (mention no names, Microsoft).

  • by stu_coates ( 156061 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2000 @03:18AM (#838166)

    Where does Britain turn? Well, FreeServe [] are offering unmetered use for a flat 10GBP a month!

  • You can really say that the service has been terminated - it never went live!

    There are many options for a flat monthy fee connection in the UK...
  • I work for an ISP and we were offered surftime a while back. IIRC Surftime works like this - BT own the modem racks and rent them out to ISP's (boxes with multiple modems connected to bearers usually). They then stream the data to the ISP. The ISP gets money from the connection fee. These systems (Including ADSL) work due to contention ratios, i.e. you have a ratio for the number of customers to the number of active customers - if I have 1000 customers and can only support 50 at a full data rate then I have a 20:1 ratio. As most customers don't stay on for hours at a time and even when they do they aren't always pulling down data at the full rate this works ok. But it only works if you have a large number of customers. For smaller ISP's this just isn't an option.

    They'll set it up to time out automatically if you don't keep the connection alive.

  • Altavista havn't "withdrawn" their service, because it was never there. They lied to people, they have lied to tthe press, and have made themselves look very, very, stupid.

    Not only that, they are now blaming BT (My employer, #include ) for not providing the lines. Nice one Altavista.

    Still, there are plenty of other unmetered ISP's in the UK, so it's not a major loss to UK Net addicts like myself. :)

  • I do agree with all the points you make about BT. However, in this instance, I think Alta Vista were entirely to blame for their own inability to provide a service that several other ISPs (e.g. Freeserve, Demon, NTLWorld) are managing to deliver.

  • There's plenty of Burger Kings in USA, so some of your countrymen must like that.

    What can I say, there's idiots everywhere regardless of country.
  • One thing I put in my own (later) submission of this story, was how the AltaVista announcement here in the UK seemed to spur a lot of other ISPs into announceing toll-free access packages.

    Some use British Telecom's "surftime" pacakge but not all. I use "freeserve time" which doesn't go thru BT.

    While it's never good for companies to hype away without substance, in this case I think the announcement (in part) led to a more rapid bringing to market of other company's toll-free services, which ultimately benefited the consumer.

  • Good argument mate, you've completely talked me round. Go USA !
  • by scrutty ( 24640 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2000 @03:42AM (#838174) Homepage
    It never existed. They claimed that they had successfully rolled it out at the start of June , and were implementing a "staggered roll out" over the hundreds of thousands of pre-registered users who had signed up for it( the deal was pre registration only). Presumably the "staggerered" bit was to convince anyone that had not been contacted with details of how to access the service yet to think that they were part of a later stage of the process.

    The entertainingly cynical UK tech website the register [] has been running an entertaining campaign over the last few days appealing for any real user of the service to come forwards. This has been building up in the media, until finally AV admit the service is totally phantom, as are the happy satisfied users that they have been referring to in previous press releases.

    It was all an out and out lie. And now they are trying to pin the blame on BT ( the now privatised, previously state-owned telco that has a near monopoly ovet the UK tel infrastructure). This despite the fact that there are other (admittedly smaller) ISP's [] who are successfully offering a similar service right now.

    I wonder what Alta Vista are going to do with all of the user data they collected for pre registration ? Donate it to charity perhaps ? [hollow sarcastic laugh]

    The state of the UK ISP is a real mess. I have just moved house ( I live in Bristol ) and I can't decide what the best company / route is for connectivity - DSL and cable modems are both real soon now vapourware in this part of the country, BT changes tack every two minutes , and smoke and mirrors tactics like this AV stuff make it even more confusing.

    Alta Vista got a hell of a lot of PR for this in the UK, government commendations, newspaper front pages etc. I feel that their behaviour over this is criminal, and I would like to see them punished

  • That was humorous.
  • Who needs AltaVista? Two months ago Freeserve [] launched their unmetered service []. I've been using it since day one, and I have had no problems whatsoever.

    Now all the UK needs is ADSL connections...

  • A number of people have replied, commenting that FreeServe is a just alternative. It isn't. FreeServe offer their deal through the use of BT's SurfTime service, ergo, it is still being controlled by BT. AltaVista's deal was different, and made feasable by relulatory prodding...
  • Ah, but just try and connect to any Linux 2.3.x or 2.4.x box from NTL's network. Or 'notwork' in this case.

    Caused me no end of hassle tracking that problem down. We've had to downgrade now, since NTL's senior network engineers have been quite uncooperative on this issue.

  • Well I have been unmetered now for 6 months and I live in the UK.

    There are many unmetered access providers in the UK now. This is partly due to the initial Altavista announcement. From this point of view it is great that Altavista made the announcement in the first place but on the other hand is sad that it has fallen through :(

    The state of the UK's current flat rate or unmetered ISP provider standard and level of service is poor and its plain to all involved that it is infact BT who are holding back this market. They seem to have severe problems handling the increase of traffic on their network. You get all kinds of BT announcement whilst trying to connect to ISPs now.. Things like 'Sorry there is a fault, please hang up and try again' or 'The telephone network is currently busy, please try again later'. These messages are created by the switches being unable to open a new connection, ie the switches are overloaded.

    If you ask me BT must be cringing at the thought of the 'unbundling or the loop' that is being forced on them by OFTEL (the uk telecomunications ombudsman). Expect to see the BT stock take a hit and all kinds of nasty telepone problems.
    Funnily enough none of these problems affect BT's own ISP ........
  • Didn't you hear? The Americans won that one.

    *laugh* Sorry, I /tried/ to keep a straight face.
  • I'm on NTLWorld, and after waiting a VERY long time to get my CD, have found it to be a very satisfactory service.

    And as an NTL customer, it costs me precisely nothing. Nil, nix, nada, zilch.

    Only things are that the far end will disconnect you if you go idle for 20 minutes, and it disconnects after two hours anyway. However, you can just redial immediately.

  • NTL do have cable modems, and the service is quite acceptable - assuming they get their current router problems sorted out.

    ~Cederic has a cable modem and wont give it back.
  • They mentioned that other services were having funding problems and for that reason were withdrawing their services

    I think they're referring to Line One and others writing to their customers claiming they were spending too much time on line and trying to limit them to 17 hours a week. Apparently they didn't realise that if you have free internet access you will leave it on all the time.

  • I'd put about 60% of the blame on BT, and the rest on a very naive AV. BT makes all kinds of promises when Oftel is watching, but they seldom follow up and drag out the process as long as possible. AV should have counted this into their business plan, but the suits believed BT and ignored their own people who were cautioning them.

    I know personally several of the people who told AV to lay off all promotions and PR until BT actually turned up the trunks and calls could be passed. BT has a long history of screwing over any potential competitor, much in the same way american telcos behaved in the first few years after divestiture. They block access to equipment in buildings, cut power at odd times, jinx circuits, lose trouble tickets, and ignore regulator's demands.

    So yes, blaming BT rings very true. But AV is also to blame for not realising this is business as usual for BT.

    the AC
  • Personally I haven't seen all that much advertising by Telewest for their internet services, maybe this is just because C&W are so much bigger than they are.

    Anyway The Blueyonder serice is oversubscribed. Between the launch of the 24/7 service in February and July, it has been immensely slow or totally unusable. It was fine for most of July and early August (at least for me; others milage apparently varied).

    This past fortnight however, the service became abysmal. No more than 2K/s download speeds from pretty much anywhere, epsecially through ftp ports. And on Friday night, all routes to the US were compeltely lost for about 20 hours!

    The webcaching system they use is totally shafted; often showing porn sites rather than the correct site, but fortunately for me, the dialup area I am covered by doesn't use transparent caches, so that saves me those problems

    I would love to know whether any other ISP would completely take down the network for 2 hours like they did on Monday morning this week (it should be mentioned on their service page at []. OK it was at 4am, but it does seem rediculous to need to take the whole ISP down.

    It is a good deal on paper and yes I am satisfied overall, but the failures are incredibly numerous and I will not trust their e-mail service, considering how often it fails.

    Anyway, for £10/month with min of £10 on call charges it is a very good deal and the 3.99/month second phone line is also a worthy deal. Just don't exect as good a service as you might have had with other ISPs

  • Have a look at what BT said [] then...They might be talking crap, but I don't think that they'd take the risk in trying to bullshit the press when AV have just been caught out big time.

  • This is just the second round in the UK cheap internet access wars. The first round was when freeserve came along, offering access with no monthly charge, but access thru an 0845 number. This was how Freeserve got their money, as with 0845, the user's phonebill is charges as local rate, but the company with the phoneline get a percentage of this, in this case Freeserve. So users were paying Freeserve, but indirectly.

    Only gullible people really fell for this (including some of my friends :-)), because they fell for all the advertising and the fact that it said 'Free' in the title. Many people ran up HUGE phonebills with this and got very pissed off, at which point i spent much of my time saying 'I told you so...'.

    I personally thought that the first completely free service would be backed up by a large company. For instance, I thought that the first to offer this service would be places like banks, who would offer the service if you had an account with them etc., as they are already making money from you out of your business, so their own ISP can afford to make a loss, because they would be backed up by a large company. It turned out this didn't quite happen, instead the phone companies are taking a similar approach.

    The third round is going to be with broadband access, and in fact it has already started. This time it's the cable companies (NTL et al with cable modems) vs BT with ADSL. To be honest, BT has already fucked up with the launch of ADSL, but on the other hand, the cable companies have caused problems by banning users from running http and ftp servers on their machines. To some extent that war is still up in the air, but i reckon the cable companies have the edge.

  • A quick question

    Has AltaVista UK broken any laws by advertising a service that it couldn't provide and then sending out misleading emails (that the service was available) and press releases?

    If so, who do we take this to? Oftel or trading standards?

    I wonder if the head of AV UK is going to jump or be pushed with the upcoming flotation on all their minds.

    Best wishes,


    A Cable and Wireless Internet user who now pays NTL for the service, but isn't allowed to use NTL's unmetered access... sigh.

  • In the words of the prophet, "Fuck off and die"
  • BT will eventually have to be forced to open itself to competition, but Britain has a chance to do it right instead of how the U.S. did it.

    I am in the midst of installing a vpn and a framerelay one with AT&T and the other with MCI. MCI, doing the frame has to deal with three different local carriers in five different states. And local carriers are known for their anti-competitive practices.

    I believe strongly in competition, but realistic regulation also needs to go along with it.

  • Yes true indeed, the analogue signal goes thru my BT local loop, onto the Energis network. I really meant my internet connection doesn't go thru BT's surftime infrastructure, or use that package's billing structure.
  • It is Energis, you dial an access code for calls, and a different access code for internet calls. It's true the analogue call goes through my BT local loop.

    Anyone using surftime has to have BT too. My point, I think :-), was that the "freeserve time" offer doesn't use the BT Surftime IP or financial infrastructure.

  • Slightly interesting to note that C4 news had this as their top story this evening and devoted several minutes of tonights show to cover it. It didn't mention once that AltaVista had lied about the service being up and running. The company came across very well and BT got all the flak.
  • I've used the NTL package from Linux more or less continuously for 3 months now. Works fine (even with it being used via diald to connect on demand from my home network).

    Basically, once you've connected the official way under Win9x for that first registration call (it rings up a dedicated server not the normal dial-in number) and got the passwords etc you can bin the NTL 'ware. Stick the relevant info in your dial-up config and away you go. All very jolly.


  • This is not unusual and stories like this hit the headlines in this country every now and again (strayduck, greatexcape, screaming, etc.).

    Britain has not been very lucky with unmetered access up until now. There is no single provider that offers a simple flat access for a set out tariff. It's always some sort of "pay half and we pay the other" or metered access with bonus points earning or even "recommend to a friend and get free hours online"!. I can't wait till someone comes and offers a simple deal on unmetered access with no strings attached. We still have no cable or dsl available so 99% of us still rely on dial up. I certainly hope this freak show ends soon!

    if you happen to live in Britain you may want to check out this [] page for all the "offers" you can get.

    Personally I use the "Scream" crap and it is actually getting better but the 3 hour disconnect is getting progressively more annoying (or am I being a spoilt brat?). Also you have to pay for your phone bills with your credit card! Just like I said every one of them has some weird strings attached.

    Have to go now cause the dialup line is about to get discon

  • Telewest [] are installing their own equipment at the local loop and will have their service running in London / Croydon in November 2000.
  • I got my NTL disk a couple of days after the service started and have been using it ever scince on both Win98 and Linux.

    When you logon for the first time (must be under widows) they e-mail you a welcome message which contains all the info you need to configure your dial-up under Linux.

    They disconnect you after 2 hours but you can reconnect immediately - A small price to pay for cheaper calls and unlimited free dial-up
  • Um, and how does your call get to Energis? Could it be via the BT-controlled local loop? Do you think that Energis are getting this for free?

    -- Jim
  • I pay Freeserve £10 a month for unmetered access, and that is 24/7.
    Admittedly I have to reconnect every few hours so I have to use a smart FTP package for downloads (go!Zilla), and lately it's taken a few tries before connecting.
    Oh, and that's 64k ISDN, not V90, the only downside is still paying BT for the ISDN line rental, but I'm not going back now- so my quarterly bill is down to about £110 from $300-£400, because the ISDN is a business line almost exclusively for intrenet. When ADSL rolls in (Ha ha, it's already 2 months late) I shall have my ISDN line down-graded to PSTN and then up-graded to ADSL, as BT can't install ADSL over ISDN, even though Deutsche Telekom can....

    I also get the 'free' £10 calls from Energis too - and that's on a separate line from the ISDN.
    As the Freeserve service has a 7 day notice period I'm happy to drop it to get ADSL and I'm also keeping my old (non-free) ISP account to handle my email etc.

    I suppose it could be simpler...

  • It's one of the best things about Slashdot these days, a good USA/UK slanging match.

    Thankyou very much sir, I shall look forward to that beer. (I haven't got anything against USA either, it's all just a bit of a laugh, innit !)
  • It's crazy to complain about people 'leaving it on' - My company encourages us to work from home and we get a free BT line, all costs paid, to access the web and email. I sometime stay connected for 13+ hours a day - 8 hours working, 5 hours downloading stuff, getting the news etc. I don't feel I'm abusing the deal.
  • If Eurobell are your local cable company then you wont get NTL cable service until NTL buy Eurobell. In the UK at the moment Cable companies have government owned franchised and Oftel has decided that CableCo's do not need to provide access to theior services to other companies.
  • Well, BT still own the local loop, so you have to rent a BT line to use this. Plus a second line if you are going to be on 24-7 ....

    It works pretty much like the guy says, except that Linux or NetBSD with SSH is my preferred remote access method. Remote FTP and CVS (through SSH) is feasible, but a web-server is pushing the upload speed of the modem a bit much.

  • These problems are apparent when making TCP connections from a Windows or Mac box to a Linux 2.3.x or 2.4.x server. The setting up of a connection is fine, and occurs as usual, but data transfer is very, very slow - to the point of unusability

    Oddly, these problems don't occur when dialled up from a Linux machine - but they're still apparent when masquerading a Windows or Mac box behind that Linux gateway.

  • I'm in good company.
  • I was with them at the start, but I cancelled it becasue the software was shite and fecked up my installation, I could never get on to, so they gave me a extra month FREE, but I decided to cancel, so they charged me for the extra free month... NO matter how much I complained they still insisted they were in the right.... THUS I will never go with telewest ever again, I am looking to change my phone line over to BT...

    On another point there phones bill never have the correct numbers dialled on, and there digital TV is POOR, that is why I went with SKY digital

  • BT are a bad company, oftel tell them to get their act together and BT say "sure, right away". 3 months later, same thing, "BT GET SOMETHING DONE", BT:"sure thing".

    ive been using telewest's unmetered access since feb. at £20 a month, its sweet.

    the problem is that all the ISP's int he UK are waiting for BT to get their surftime thing done. i know this as i work for an ISP, for the last 3 months, theyve been delyaing the unmtered rollout, for no reason whatsoever. they just dont help. the isp are also doing ADSL access, again, delayed because of BT's lack of support.

    they dont help, because they are making so much money from metered access at the moment.

    the other problem is the consumers, the majority of the ppl in the UK (probably) have only been online since the launch of the "free" isps, (non-subscription) this wasvery bad, because att he time AOL were justa bout to trial an unmtered service for around £30 a month (~$70) but as freeserve were taken up so heartily they rejected the idea. and ever since, everytime someone suggested some unmtered access (first seen a year ago, trials by AOL) the consumers said: "why should *I* pay £50 a month???" sot hey stopped that plan.

    the problem is nobody thinks of the future., and the press, they are to blame too.

    everyone claimed how "bad" the service from telewest was, about 5% had a problem. most other people (like me) had no problem.


  • Here's a list [] of UK freephone access providers.
    Richy C. []
  • That was probably going to be my first port of call

    But the service is legendarily unreliable round these parts. And the cable modem rollout has been pushed back before ;o)

  • I also an using the freeserve unlimited time offer for 10 pounds per month. Although it disconnects you every two hours and it's sometimes a little difficult to get a connection during peak evening hours, it works well once you get a connection and like other people have said it works well with linux.
  • Before Everyone starts saying it is excellent value. REMEMBER that you have to use BT otherwise you can't use the free service, and you still have to pay for it :(.

    I know this because I use Telewest and the Cabl;e i-net offer is pure rubish, but BTInternet, have a OK'ish offer for none BT users.

  • And then we discarded it again. Funny, really, when you've got all those American natives confined to reservations because you took all their land and don't want to give it back. --
  • Yes, it seems he was right, and that you don't know a thing about Northern Ireland.
  • "AltaVista's deal was different, and made feasable by relulatory prodding"

    Putting it a lil bit more accurately: they didn't like BT's terms trading freely for line costs - so they went public with a huge vaporware in the hopes of getting our polls-obsessed govt to straitjacket BT via the telephone regulator (Yeah, they privatized the company and kept all the control. Govts, hmph). When everyone else - including BT - came up with me-too unmetered services, AV's plan floundered. Good tactical planning there by BT :-)

    Least, that's how it looks to me.
  • by Paul Johnson ( 33553 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2000 @04:04AM (#838215) Homepage
    BT was the bad guy. Has been for a long time.

    Briefly, BT is regulated by Oftel. However when BT says "this is hard to do" Oftel says "OK, how long will it take you". This is not a recipie for getting things done that BT doesn't want.

    In this case BT has two major cash cows: leased lines (GBP 1000/month for 64kbits) and per-minute charging on voice and ISDN lines (a penny a minute upwards). Oftel, the EU, the UK government and just about everybody else want to knock these cows on the head because they are blocking the widespread uptake of the Internet. BT wants to keep them.

    This has manifested itself in two main ways:

    • BT has been blocking the growth of cheap ADSL for years, arguing that its very difficult to do. It's also blocking co-location of DSLAMs by competitors on the grounds that crosstalk problems are very difficult to solve. Oftel is not arguing with this, or at least not very loudly.
    • Its been blocking any kind of unmetered tariff. This is what bit AltaVista. BT originally tried to introduce its own "surf unlimited" package with unmetered connection to BT Internet (its own ISP). Oftel cried foul, and declared that if BT was going to give BT Internet an unmetered package then it had to give the same package to any other ISP. BT duly promised to do so, and has since put the introduction date back several times. Alta Vista have just got fed up with waiting.

    The only dodgy thing that AV did do was to pretend that their service was up and running with 10,000 users. The Register [] has the story so far.


  • to expect a yank to have anything like a realistic view of anywhere else in the world.
  • I wondered when AltaVista were gonna own up to that one. They actually had the cheek to send me a mail promoting this service today. Here are some quotes:

    "Since AltaVista made its ground-breaking announcement of its intention to launch an unmetered internet access package on 6th March 2000, the entireUKaccess market has transformed dramatically."


    "AltaVista Unlimited Internet Access launched on 30 June, 2000, and is currently being rolled out to our list of preregistered customers. So as to ensure the quality of this service, AltaVista has elected to rollout this service in a controlled manner."

    Infact, it was so tightly controlled that it didn't actually get rolled out, period!

    Thanks to the fat monopoly that is BT, we in the UK are way behind the US in terms of broadband internet access. The UK's Telco governing body (OFTEL) have set a deadline for BT to lose their monopoly on the local loop at the end of this year, after which the price of non-NAT ADSL installation/usage will hopefully become comparable to the US. I for one will be waiting until then before I get my ADSL.
  • Plenty? Name 10 24/7 unmetered that work, not vapourware, not closing down like Callnet0800 and lineone, just that work.

  • People are allways running to bash bt here. I think they are a good company, offering a good service. (but a little pricy). My phone broke, it was back on in 2 hours, on a bank holiday AND I got compensation. Plus, I'm getting ADSL installed and I live on the Edge of a town of only 80,000. Adsl is a little overpriced however.
  • Well, that's just wrong - at least here in the North East. NTL do cable modems, you have to buy the modem for £150 and then it's £40 a month for always-on access.

    Make of that what you will. And stop making me sound like an NTL salesman, cuz I'm not :)
  • I was already paying for NTL cable + telephone.

    The impact of NTLWorld on my monthly outgoings is therefore zero. Well, it's better than that because I no longer pay for my internet calls.
  • Or try a different telco like WorldOnline. I had free off-peak access for a year, for less than BT's standing charge. This has now become 24/7, for slightly more than BT's standing charge - about 5GBP per month I think.
  • I recieved my 'unmetered' (0800 number) NTL CD this week, after a _very_ long wait - it appears that new subscribers to the service were prioritised over existing customers. The account has a pin number (helpfully printed on the address label) and a serial number for the CD inside the package. It installs something called Gearbox, which runs at bootup, replaces Dial-Up Networking and tries to make you surf in its own 'customised' window. You can fire up IE/NS after you've connected, however. The setup offers you the option to install IE 5 or NS 4, but no opt-out clause, so you have to choose one. It seems not to bother if it finds a version on your machine, but even so it's a confusing bit of interface design. The installation does place an entry in Dial-Up Networking, but I couldn't get it to work that way the couple of times I tried. The service cuts off after five minutes of inactivity, or after two hours of connection. In practice, it seems to 'freeze' after 30-60 mins, requiring a reconnection. I've tried to change my password a number of times, and had a 'connection reset by peer' error every time. I've mailed the support team and received nothing back, though presumably I could ring their _£1 per minute_ helpline for an instant response. Obviously, the CD mentions nothing about getting the service up under Linux, and also informs you that it won't work under NT or 2000.
    One good tip is that despite the pin numbers/serials, you can easily install the service on several PCs (if the Dial-Up number doesn't work on its own) by choosing 'reinstall' from the setup options and putting your password in. My flatmate and I are using the same service, despite NTL's claims that this wouldn't be possible.
    I know it's a free service - as in beer (providing you don't have to call the helpline) - but even so, it smacks of crap and I think I'd rather pay a set amount for a well-designed and provided service.
    I don't think free net access in the UK will work out correctly until we have a phone system similar to the US's, though American readers may wish to correct me here...

  • SurfTime is actually a pretty good idea - in that it diverts IP traffic out of voice switched circuits as soon as possible i.e. at the local exchange. The customer's exchange has to be surftime-enabled, meaning that it has a bank of modems that connect directly to BT's IP over ATM network thus freeing up all those trunk routes that would otherwise be used routing the call via PSTN to wherever the ISP's modems are. Instead the modems are as close to the customer as possible, and BT provide a PPP stream to the ISP using their Colossus network. The ISP then routes these streams to their peers using their own fat pipes (which may or may not be BT bandwidth). Authorisation is performed at two levels: the line used to dial into SurfTime must be registered as such and provide CLI; and BT authorise the ISP account info when setting up the PPP session on behalf of the ISP. As usual with BT, the technical support is dire! I had to work all this out pretty much by myself whilst struggling for 3 days to get a Cisco Dial on Demand ISDN router to use SurfTime. The secret (no pun intended) turned out to be to use CHAP and not PAP authorisation, but of course BT's phone-monkeys kept telling me to call my ISP (who of course have no access to the BT modems at my local exchange, and were as in the dark as I was). The thing works great now - PAT on the Cisco allowing a LAN to have 24/7 unmetered access, and 128k multilink too for the same price. Multilink is still flakey, but I just haven't worked up the energy for another round of phone ping-pong yet :)
  • I believe strongly in competition, but realistic regulation also needs to go along with it.

    Oh dear. We have OFTEL.

    That's us buggered then.

    Hell hath no fury like a pissed-off Glaswegian.
  • Screaming/WorldOnline does have dreadful customer service it is true. However, there are no strings as you imply - you just pay your monthly charge, which for the offpeak service is less than BT, and for the 24/7 is more (about 5GBP per month).
    You must pay your bill my credit card OR by direct debit.
    The 3 hour disconnect is annoying, but only 66% as annoying as the old 2 hour disconnect :)
  • Yeah, I've got a Freeserve account (also 15x ConnectFree, Telinco, Free Online, ic24, Compuserve (never paid, never revoked account) and many more). It's just that I've used my Demon account for so many years now (7 IIRC) that it'll still take me ages to 'port' my email addresses across. I've got around 150 address on beebware.demon, but only 50 on so far... POP3 fetching isn't fun (I use SMTP).
    I'll wait, mainly because I've only just moved and my computer is in 4 rooms...
    Richy C. []
  • You *think* you are getting ADSL installed :)
    When "June" becomes "late summer" which in turn becomes "October/November", and when you pay 40GBP per month for USB ADSL modem which is already NATed and has dubious support for sharing, games, servers etc. then "a little overpriced" is a phrase worthy of BT's marketing dept.
  • Thats what I'd thought myself, but apparently this only applies to cable TV, and hence NTL are allowed to provide fone and network services wherever they want. Or is my information just plain wrong here?
  • Don't forget those smart Americans who cracked the Enigma machine.

  • >The state of the UK ISP is a real mess. I have just
    >moved house ( I live in Bristol )

    Me too. FWIW where I live now has both a BT phone
    line and a Telewest line. The Telewest line consistently
    connects at 52 K, the BT line manages 28K. Whether
    this is due to the Telewest being a newer connection
    than the BT one I couldn't say.

    >and I can't decide what the best company / route is
    >for connectivity - DSL and cable modems are both
    >real soon now vapourware in this part of the country,
    >BT changes tack every two minutes , and smoke and
    >mirrors tactics like this AV stuff make it even more

    Stick to V90 modems. The market for broadband (and
    unmetered) won't settle down until the local loop is
    unbundled. Or find a friendly ISP in Bristol, get BT to
    setup a 'bell wire' permanent connection between
    you and the ISP. Bung a DSL modem on each end, and
    hope you ISP has got plenty of bandwidth.

    From the cable modem rollout it sounds like they could
    have charged a lot more, particularly as there is no
    competition from BT. The higher price would have get
    demand down to level they could cope with.

    Back on topic, couldn't Altavista's actions be described
    as fraud?


  • I was under the impression that AV wasn't blaming BT just because they had nobody else to blame, but because BT hadn't kept to an agreement with/order from OFTEL to make flat rate available to other ISPs when it launched its own service. Perhaps OFTEL is who it should be blaming for not enforcing its orders.
  • Whenever the freeserve network is busy, the message of "BT Network is currently busy, please try again later" - strange that its a BT Network message and not an Energis one.
  • by tolldog ( 1571 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2000 @03:22AM (#838239) Homepage Journal
    From what it sounds, AltaVista was the bad guy in this situation. They promised big, provided nothing, and when people started to complain they started pointing fingers. One out of three is a bad practice to get into. Two out of three shows lack of thinking or disrespect for customers, but all three of them... I am shocked.

    I thought that only in the USA could we get stomped by some faceless giant. Don't we own a trademark on that or something???

  • ZDNet UK has a list [] of ISPs offering unmetered access in the UK... along with information about costs and current availability.
  • Freeserve has three different deals on the go:- One is the normal, penny per minute calls service. The second(limited time) is based on Surftime, but is subsidised to be £1 cheaper (£4.99)than BT's version, and the other is the Time Unlimited package which is routed through Energis and is free if you make £10 of calls through their dialer box, otherwise it costs you £10 per month.
  • This despite the fact that there are other (admittedly smaller) ISP's who are successfully offering a similar service right now.

    The ISP you refer to is Telewest. AIUI their unmetered offer is only for people connecting via their own telephone network, which doesn't involve BT.

    If you are in Telewest's service area then this is great: go for it. (I like my Cable Modem too). But outside their area you are stuffed.

    (Actually I think NTL offer a similar deal.)


  • Actually if you have an NTL phoneline like me already (only around £5 a month for a second one), you get completely free access, no matter what your phonebill is. At the moment I have a BT line, which i use for normal calls, and an NTL line, which is connected 24/7 on an NTL's 0800 dial up line. (for those americans out there, in the UK any 0800 number is free)
  • by Greyfox ( 87712 )
    In packed areas like London I'm surprised people aren't just slinging ethernet out the windows. It'd be cool if they could build at least a city wide network that way (Possibly with wireless microwave links or bluetooth taking up the gaps.)
  • I have the Freeserve offer for 10ukp/month. It is excellent value.

    The ususal OK connection rates and overall performance issues exist as on the regular Freeserve accounts but I've been using it on a 56k modem for 18+ hrs a day for over a month with no real problems.

    No special dialup programs that tie you to a W98 box and 10ukp/mon of normal calls thrown in for the price too.

    I don't recommend you let go of your paid ISP yet (SLAs still mean something after all) but this is an excellent way to manage your bill if you do a lot of daytime work on the web/email. []

    Last time I rang up accounts were taking about 10 days to clear and payment was by direct debit monthly. My account has saved me a LOT of money, maybe 100ukp/mon (about $750/yr)

  • I pay the bad guy BT £10 a month, and they give me access all the time I'm not at work. Which is good enough for me. Especially when they give me a freephone number to dial in on, and they don't complain when I stay dialled in for 56 hours at the weekend. What does that cost on *your* unmetered service of choice. Freeserve still aren't a freephone number are they? The best you'll get is 1p a minute, but after 56 hours? Bad Monopoly types they may be, but until someone matches them, they get my money. And this Service has run since March, before AltaVista service was promosed.
  • WhiteWash wrote: FreeServe offer their deal through the use of BT's SurfTime service, ergo, it is still being controlled by BT

    Sorry matey but that's a bunch of arse. Freeserve do offer an off-peak [] unmetered scheme via BT Surftime (limited to weekends and 6pm-8am) but their peak/off-peak (ie. any time of day) unmetered scheme is via Energis [].

    With Unlimited Freeserve Time [] (the Energis service) you pay a minimum of 10 pounds per month. As well as getting unlimited Internet usage, you can also make long distance voice/fax calls at a discount up to your 10 quid (if you want to make more, you can, but you pay extra).

    Unlimited Freeserve Time has the following restrictions:

    • All internet calls via this service are disconnected after 2 hours even if you're in the middle of a huge download. Which is what the godess created resumable download managers for. You can redial and get straight back on instantly, but you'll have a new dynamic IP address.
    • It's for modems and 64kbps ISDN only. You can't multilink devices, so if you're using ISDN you can't use 128kbps (you can't even multilink one unmetered 64kbps channel to another pay-per-minute 64kbps channel). Multilink was originally supported, but was dropped last month.
    • You must have a BT phone/ISDN line (even though the call routing is via Energis- but you don't need a SurfTime upgraded exchange, any exchange will do).

    Yup, I'd hardly call that "unlimited" either, but it's good enough for me- my 'phone bill has gone down from 80 quid a month + rental to 10 quid + rental in one fell swoop. Neat.

    Combine a 64kbps ISDN line, Unlimited Freeserve Time, auto-redialling software and a dynamic domain name [] plus a bit of socket/port wizardry and you too can remote control your PC from the office [] or run FTP/web servers etc.

    Readers might like to know that the NTL offering, unlike Freeserve, doesn't support ISDN at all, not even 64kbps.

    Find out more on [] .


  • by stephenbooth ( 172227 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2000 @03:30AM (#838274) Homepage Journal
    BT is still in a real monopoly position in the UK, within the local loop (the copper running from exchange to peoples homes and offices) they have virtually no competition aside from a few cable TV companies who are still in the process of connecting people for their core business.

    Later this year BT are supposed to be 'unbundling the local loop' but it's a case of I'll believe it when I see it!

    Those unmetered services that are available (for example my local cable TV company (Telewest) run an unmetered ISP for thier cable TV subscribers) are so heavily over subscribed that they are having to stop taking on new accounts cos they physically can't get the hardware in place fast enough to service the demands.

    To quote one of BTs own operators in a conversation with me in summer of 1992 "Well, it's [BT] not an honest company.".


Q: How many IBM CPU's does it take to execute a job? A: Four; three to hold it down, and one to rip its head off.