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The Internet

UK MSN drops Subscription Charges 83

geoff lane writes "Recently in the UK there has been a very strong move towards "free" ISPs. By doing deals with the telecom companies which split the call charge income between the telecom and ISP companies the ISPs can drop subscription charges. I've heard it reported that as few as 10,000 signed up users can move a small "free" ISP into a trading profit." I guess I'm not surprised. Telcos are big, how long can it be before they swallow the ISPs anyway? And how long before it here..."
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UK MSN drops Subscription Charges

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  • Okay, so they might be the highest ones, but does any established user take AOL or Freeserve seriously?
  • Many people in Europe have been calling for North American-style free local phone calls, at least to ISPs. I disagree.

    I'm probably in the minority here. But let me give my reasons.

    First, let's remember that the choice is not actually between free and charged calls. It's between a metered and a flat-rate service. Reducing the telcos profits is an entirely separate question, unrelated to the issue of "free" calls.

    I would like to see a per-megabyte, rather than per-minute, charge for internet access. The advantages of this would be
    1) It reduces demand to what people really want.
    2) It provides an incentive for ISPs to increase their bandwidth up to what customers want to use, because being able to send more traffic immediately increases their revenue.

    In my opinion, the main reason that the internet is so clogged up, especially on intercontinental links, is precisely because of unmetered access, so that 1) and 2) don't happen. People have no incentive to control their demand, and ISPs have little incentive to expand their links above what they can get away with.

    By reducing the load on the network, everything would work more efficiently. Bandwidth would not need to grow as fast, and the network would be cheaper to build.

    So I think the choice is between watching the clock, or a higher flat-rate charge. I prefer the clock. YMMV.
  • ...the same deal being offered on the ISP run by Tempo. They not only offer a free ISP, but if you swap your BT phone line for one of theirs, they give you free dial up as well....
    +----------------------+
    | GodEater |
  • I think Barclays is the bank you're thinking of for offering the free ISP service. I'm sure many more will join them in the future.
    --

  • Demon isn't free. It's ten quid (US$15) per month.

    You get a static IP address and free fax-to-email but other than that, it ain't so hot anymore. If it wasn't for the fact that my email and website addresses are so ingrained on my friends and search engines' collective conciousnesses, I would have quit long ago.

    If they go free, though... NICE.


    --

  • My ISP in the UK is Demon, who have always charged £10 a month plus tax (total £11.75). Despite being in a different country now, I'm still using their web server and have noticed it really start to crawl (especially uploading at peak time). I've tried out a few of the free ISPs and they seem to have got their arses into gear vis-a-vis decent kit. I'll be staying with Demon though, but mainly cos too many people have got that address for me to move. Having said that, if their service continues to drop, I'll be changing.

    A couple of companies in the UK have started up completely free services (i.e. free login, free call), based on targeted advertising. It'll be interesting to see how they survive.
  • Charging by usage does have its advantages, it regulates the use of a scarce resource
    (phone lines), by making you pay for what you use.

    Certainly I never have any trouble with busy lines to my ISP or my ISP not having any modems free.

    Charging on a time used basis does discourage the "I'll phone up my ISP and stay on-line all day. Even if I'm not using the connection." attitude.
  • The local calls I make on my second phone line to my ISP are "free" in the sense that I have a flat rate bill (about $18 + fees/taxes/etc.), so I pay the same thing if I make 0 calls or 100 calls in a month. I've seen some people who use metered lines (per call charge), but with four people in the house now using the Internet, I think I'd blow past the break-even point in the first week of every month... :-/

    Here in Rochester NY, the phone system is moderately good. I don't pay extra for a 56K line, but then my connections fluctuate anywhere from 28.8 to 44K tops, depending on the phase of the moon...

  • Ahem...

    in the UK we have to pay for ALL of our telephone calls...

    The way this owrks is that 1/3 of that cost goes to the originating telco. 1/3 goes to BT for switching it between telcos and 1/3 goes to the terminating telco.

    BT is for the majority of calls in the UK both the originating and terminating telco. So they get 100% of the call cost.

    ISP's generally receive lots of calls without making any. This means that the receiving telco makes a nice profit on all of those calls. So this sort of profit sharing scheme means that the ISP can cut costs by getting some of that profit from the telco.

    I don't know how it works in the states but I would guess that it's not the same.

    Although Demon is owned by Scottish Telecom it has its own telco licence, so at a bit of investment (1/4 to 1/2 a million pounds) they can put in a C7 DMSU (telephone switch) and rake in 100% of the interconnect charge. i.e. get the final 1/3 all to themselves.

    So technically nobody will be charged more for this, its already included on your phone bill.

  • I think they should find a better way of doing this because it's not exactly the best way of obtaining someones identity. Someone could get into a lot of trouble if they left their machine accessible and then some of their childrens friends with a weird sense of humour wanted to send a lot of offendsive email, for example, by registering with a free provider online.

    And why shouldn't I be responsible for what my children's friends do on a machine that I own. Being responsible for your children also means knowing who they hang out with and what they are doing.
  • by Boncey ( 17211 ) on Thursday May 20, 1999 @03:46AM (#1885799) Homepage
    The problem I have with 'Free ISPs' is that they discourage telecom operators from allowing free calls (the real issue).
    As the call charges are exactly the thing that is funding the ISP side of the business there is plenty of interest (for the telecom operators) in maintaining the status quo.

    I'm sure the majority of European Internet users would prefer to pay £10-£20 a month to an ISP and get free calls, rather than pay nothing to an ISP and pay for per minute access to a telecom operator.

    See Campaign for Unmetered Telecommunications [unmetered.org.uk] for more info.
  • The free ones where you pay for the phone call are not flaky (in my experience). The free one where you don't pay for the call is flaky, but you get what you pay for.

    I still keep my for-pay ISP for downloads and a decent connection, but try and use my free-free ISP as much as I can.

    perl -e 'print scalar reverse q(\)-: ,hacker Perl another Just)'
  • I jumped in to this one a while back, and was pleasantly surprised to find out that it doesn't do any of the nasty things to your system that others like FreeServe do. All the parameters are standard, and on the PC it only installs a dial-up-connection option - no customized browsers etc.

    Protocol: PPP
    Phone: 0845 6091352
    UserID: Yahoo
    Password: Yahoo
    DNS: 194.72.6.57
    DNS: 194.73.82.242
    IP Header Compression
    Default Gateway
    DHCP

    That's it - nothing PC-specific there!

    Cheers,

    frivolous
  • True in UK too, for sure. As The Register [theregister.co.uk] points out, British Telecom [bt.co.uk] are making $220 profit per second and have no intention of cutting the cost of Net access, let alone making it free [unmetered.org.uk].

    Regards, Ralph.
  • This is great step for the lower income people who can't afford the extra $20/month to log on. But if the telcom company are splitting their profits w/ the ISP's, who's going to end up being charged more for this? Or are they keep all the cost the same and dig into their huge bank accounts and help? But this doesn't affect me, becuase i'm on cable modem, which is only $30/month unlimited use.
    "Windows 98 Second Edition works and players better than ever." -Microsoft's Home page on Win98SE.
  • I now have a 100% free internet connection at home in the UK (well, OK, it's free after 6pm and on the weekend, but that's the only time I'm online). So there are companies out there willing to offer this service.

    The connection is crap - awful in fact. Very slow on the US uplink, but fast enough for long irc sessions. And their modem ratio is 30:1 (increasing to 20:1 this weekend), but I haven't had too many problems connecting (never connects first time at 6pm, but always connects eventually).

    However I don't really want to shout out how to get this service. People who know should probably keep it to themselves too - I'd hate for the service to get *worse*!!! :)

    Drop me a line with a good grovelling line, and a great joke, and I'll tell you all the details. (PS: I'm connecting from Linux).

    Matt.

    perl -e 'print scalar reverse q(\)-: ,hacker Perl another Just)'
  • Yes, like I said, you can do what you like for
    nothing over the 'Internet' as we now
    understand it: encrypt and tunnel your heart
    out.

    But if I'm providing a service such as a
    Doom server and I feel like charging for it,
    or an enhanced fast packet switch-based
    international telephone service, I'd like to
    know exactly who you are.

    So obviously that connection I was talking
    about is authenticated (and, dare I say it,
    even encrypted by default..).

    Oh - and wouldn't you like your mother-in-law
    in Australia to pay for that call you made to her
    where she talked your leg off the whole time?
    With my plan, she pays for every word!!!
  • CLID should be enabled if you are connecting to a free ISP. The reason for this is traceability. If you send some email through a regular isp then you can be traced. if you do the same through a free ISP then they don't know where you came from.

    You could be almost anybody. The solution insist on CLID. There has been a lot of discussion about this sort of thing in industry bodies...

    AFAIK this information is only used for logging purposes.
  • The massive growth in "free" internet service providers has to be good news for growth of the UK Internet, a huge range of suppliers, from Elecrical Retailers to Supermarkets are now offering free internet access, this weekend I went to Toys R Us and Tescos Supermarket, both had heavy promotion on thier "Free Internet Access"


    However, I believe that most suppliers are not in the market simply to gain revenue from phone calls. Dixons, the electrical retailer who set up the most popular of these services "Freeserve", which has 1.5 million members compared to AOLs 750K, did so largely in response to worries that companies such as Dell, who sell direct to customers via the internet and phone, would erode the market share of their store based retail network. Most of the free ISP's direct users to there own portals, usually featuring heavy advertising. I would imagine that Tescos and MSN have a similar marketing strategy.


    The company that stands to lose most from this in the UK is AOL, who continue to charge between 10 and 15 pounds to use their services. AOL has been experimenting with with free 0800 access to it's services and is lobbying for a reduction in local phone calls to help it compete. In a seperate trial, Surry based LocalTel are offering free internet access and free off peak calls if you sign up for telephone calls with them, although this is a limited service at present.


    Now, if the UK could get cheap or free ISDN or Cable modem access sorted out.....

  • Apart from special deals run by local operators (which are very rare), ALL calls are per minute.
    A friend of mine pays £100 (about $160) a month just for calls to the Internet, he's not a particularly heavy user either.
    It seriously sucks, believe me.
    Costs are about a penny a minute off-peak, two pence a minute peak.
  • I've found my freeserve connection from Linux to be fairly reliable (i.e. first time connection every time) apart from a time last month when they seemed to change something which broke most peoples scripted logins - which I fixed by switching to PAP authentication (as suggested by several folks on the freeserve.help.unix NG).

    I don't often get connected at over 44000kbps though (sometimes 45333).
    --

  • Just an example...
    The point is it's so easy to register for these services they are guaranteed to get misused by a lot of people.

    Anyway onto what you say - you can't keep an eye on someone 24 hours a day and even so what about freedom? Unless you keep your computer under lock and key and know everything about your childrens friends, which is very unlikely. Anyway this is far too much off topic.
    --
  • This is the average response to a question to an ISP about linux support:

    "We don't support linux owing to the cost of training the support staff to a sufficient level to be able to deal with any users configuration."

    By the time the support staff have been trained enough to deal with a hacked-about linux box, they've got enough knowledge to go and get jobs as sysadmins.. and who would want to stay in a tech support job then?

    The systems team where I work generally answer newsgroup support queries that the tech support team can't answer: we do our best to get unix users ( we've had just about every type of unix at some point ) online, but we can't provide official support otherwise we'd never get time to do what we're supposed to be doing.. and none of us would want to work ( or go back to ) support anyway.
  • Being from the US, I'm curious about how the "charge for all calls" works. Actually, I'm more frightend by it, but I digress...

    So, do you pay a per minute charge for all calls, or are certain calls considered "local" and are only charged a connection fee? And, suppose I'm calling an ISP located 10 miles away, how much does the call cost (per minute or per connection)?

    If they did the same thing here in the states, I'd go bankrupt rather quickly.
  • Come to Australia. We have flat rate calls too. You can get a permanent connection for $AUD 20 per month. The line will probably drop out once per day so you'll end up paying about another $6.00 per month for calls. Add $10 for a dedicated phone line thats say $AUD 40 per month for 24x7 net access. That equates to about $US 25/month. Not too bad I think.
  • Here in the UK, we still get charged by-the-minute for our local phone calls, which works out at about 5p/minute (8c) during peak hours, 1.5p/minute (2.4c) at evenings, and 1p/minute (1.6c) at weekends. Most people's ISP's now use 0845/0345 numbers, which are national numbers, charged at the rate of a local call. Companies who set up 0345/0845 numbers get a share of the money that BT charges the customer, so the 'Free' ISPs make their money from the time that their users spend online.

    Personally, I'd much rather pay a monthly rate, and have flat-rate local calls, or even better - ADSL ;-)

    cheers,

    Tim
  • These "free" ISPs aren't really free, since you pay through the nose for your phone calls.
    Another poster mentioned the Campaign for unmetered telecommunications [unmetered.org.uk]
    You should know that there are many similar groups in Europe asking for a flat rate and together they have organized the European Telecom Boycott Day on 6/6/1999. Visit http://www.telecom.eu.org [eu.org] and, please, support the boycott.
  • Around the end of Q1/99, the ISP league table was:-



    1. Freeserve (Planet Online/Energis)

    2. AOL

    3. Compuserve

    4. Demon



    Even if you don't include AOL/Compuserve as ISPs, then Demon are still less than 25% of the size of Freeserve.



    I'm not in the ISP market now so haven't followed this further, but my gut feeling says that FS is bigger, AOL/Compuserve have shrunk a little, Demon will have lost customers but they take forever to kill old accounts so will still count them. One of the other freebies may have over taken possibly getting as high as #2, but FS will still be on top for now.



    As for ownership:-

    Freeserve - Planet - owned by Energis (telco)

    Demon - owned by Scottish power/telecom

    Tesco - effectively owned by BT

    [various others] - effectively BT clickfree

  • Well Telstra don't have a complete monopoly. And seeing as UU-Net / MCI have just bought out OzEmail and have plans to lay fibre all over the place, things can only get better.
  • "I'm sure the majority of European Internet users would prefer to pay £10-£20 a month to an ISP and get free calls, rather than pay nothing to an ISP and pay for per minute access to a telecom operator."

    Well, there are already ISPs in the UK who operate on this basis. But they're losing customers at the expense of the "free" (call charge only) ISPs. So it seems that the customers disagree with you.
  • Um... I don't think Demon are the biggest (and I speak as a long-term Demon user who's staying with them in the short term, 'cos my email address is too widely known to change). Interesting fact; although these free services (Yanks; remember that we pay for local phone calls in the UK) tend to give punters a CD to install, most of them can be used without the CD after a little fiddling; I regularly use Freeserve from my Linux setup and will be looking at the totally free (0800) services soon to see if I can get them going.
  • Hmm.. follow this chain of events.

    o) Demon are the biggest independent ISP in the UK, with the staff who made it that way.
    o) Demon get bought by a large corporation ( Scottish telecom )
    o) Large corporation sets about corporatising Demon's work environment
    o) Most of the technical staff object and leave
    o) Demon hires contractors who don't really care about anything more than their next invoice.
    o) Demon's service goes downhill.

    This seem at all reasonable?
    ( I've never worked for Demon, BTW, just one of their competitors, but there's no secrets in this industry. Luckily we went through the cottage-to-corporate change some time back, and have since re-educated the new management :) )

    There's lots of advantages to being an ISP with telco licenses ( massively cheap bandwidth is one ) so maybe Demon will improve again: however if they can't attract staff ( and the damage has been done ) then they're going nowhere. Good ISP techies generally get that way with experience, and there aren't many of them..
  • Yes, it does.

    But you don't know how happy every online user in Germany will be, if we would have flatrate phone calls. I would be really happy if I have to try twenty times until I can connect to my ISP and then I don't have to pay any time charges.

    We had a flatrate two months ago. Yes, it's right, this ISP had MANY trouble with jammed phone lines, BUT firstly they were complete idiots and unable to configure their systems and secondly it was ONE ISP for nearly the WHOLE German online community. And I was really happy with it, it's a complete different way to surf the web. You don't have to open twenty different browser windows to get all the informations you want and then disconnect quick. You can stay online as long as you want and you're able to use all those fantastic possibilities the internet offers. (You can also use them if you have to pay on a time-charge basis, but you WILL not use them, because it's just too expensive.)

    You have to know, here nearly nobody shops online, because you can save a LOT of money if you spend your time in real shops instead of the internet.

    Okay, you're right, this post is the post of a totally frustrated and unhappy Internet User, beacuse his last phone bill was over 150 $, but that's the truth :(
  • I too have had almost no problems with Freeserve (except when they stopped allowing scripted logins). It works for me.

    Quite amazing really that they managed to roll it all out properly while subscribing 10,000 new customers every day.
  • 4. Internet packets are free;

    Hmmm, how do you define Internet packets? TCP/IP?
    Well, Voice over IP works... so either they inspect all of my packets or they don't charge me properly.

    Guess I'll start using an encrypted tunnel to a server somewhere that will break those packets out for me... Now what rate will they charge my encrypted IP packets at?

    I can't see how you can regulate this one.

    Either you play a flat monthly fee for such a service or you pay that for a basic service and pay extra for all those useless add ons...

    Television and music... Hmmm, no I don't want to buy those services from you thank you.

    Games... No thanks I have some of those already...

    Phone calls... Well, that one sounds useful, how about I pay you per call...

  • Although the free ISPs exist in the UK and operate on cheaper phonelines - there are some problems. The phonelines set aside for modem access are actually cheap calls lines - originally designated by the phone companies for 'help' lines or 'sales' lines. There is a rumour that OfTel (the UK phone company regulatory body) is going to scrap the free ISP idea because it's unfair competition AGAINST the phone companies. There's a turn up for the books.

    On the other hand, it is worth mentioning that although most of these free ISPs are running as competition to the telcos, they actually run off modem pools maintained by people like British Telecom (the largest UK telco and previously the monopoly organisation).

    Profit is still profit for telcos, although if you ask any of them, I think they would prefer to have the users on a chargeable per month service and phone calls, as opposed to a free service and phone calls run by their competitors. It's a fine line that these chaps run because too many customers equals closer scrutiny by governing bodies. Strange old world. Still - love your permanent connection and ignore dialups!
  • I assume that the figure of 1.5 million members for Freeserve is a misquote? The last that I heard, they were on somewhere in the region of 120,000 subscriptions and had begun to plateau with the move by Tesco to a totally free service (among the other 20/30+ free ISP services). Or am I totally off base with my figures? I thought that BT only had somewhere in the region of 90,000 customers. Anyone got figures for UK ISP subscribers?
  • Telstra is the biggest Telecommunications Network in Australia, and as the market was regulaetd by the government for a vast number of years, they have a complete monopoly on the Telecommunications Industry in Australia.

    Having said that, there are many many medium sized ISPs in Australia, but they are unable to compete for the simple reason that if they were competitive, Telstra wuold find a way to tighten the stranglehold on the market, and essentially make the business unprofitable.

    Free Internet is very much in its infancy here, but while the telecommunications giant owns the routers, gateways, exchanges and phone lines, I simply cant see Free internet taking off in australia, no matter how many subscribers an ISP obtains
  • I agree with this. Now that 'free' (although they don't fit into any definition of free I know) ISPs are taking hold in the UK it means that it is going to be exceedeingly difficult to go the way of the US and offer free calls and paid subscriptions (although the phone network may not have the capacity to cope with people being online all day). Personally I'd prefer to pay £30 per month for free calls (are you listening Telewest?) to ISPs rather than go with one of these so called free ISPs.

    DID YOU KNOW....?
    In the UK we have a caller ID system where your phone number is transmitted to the receiving phone unless you explicitly block it with 141 before dialing the number or ask for it to be permanently blocked by the telco.

    However some free ISPs insist that you have caller ID disabled and won't let you log in unless you disclose your phone number to them. They say it's for security but perhaps it could be telemarketing or whatever. I'm not really worried but I know some people who will be so I thought I'd let you know.
    --
  • In the UK we pay per minute for all calls including local calls. The cost for local calls off peak (i.e. after 6pm or so) is around 1.5p per minute, dropping to 1p per minute at the weekend. Most, if not all ISPs provide a local point of presence number.

    As a further digression, I believe (although I'm not sure) that within the City of Hull, most calls are handled by a separate telco which does follow the US model of charging a flat rate connection fee for local calls.
    --

  • In some places (like NC using Hell^H^H^H^HBellSouth), local calls are totally unmetered. ~$18 a month, and you can call local all day long, as much as you want. My second line is for internet use, using demand-dial. It dials on and off all day long, but my phone bill for that line is the same every month - about $18. As for long distance, 9 cents/minute out-of-state, but 25 or 12 cents/minute in-state, depending on time of day. (Retarded, but that's what it is)
  • Anyone remember 'Springtime for Hitler'? The musical in The Producers [imdb.com] that had to be extraordinarily bad to make its investors rich? Free ISPs charge a hefty premium for support calls. Dixons came in at £1 a minute when they launched Freeserve. It's down to 50p now, but I can't see it going into freefall.

    I've tried Callnet [callnetuk.com] and found the service to be reliably unreliable (in the interests of fairness I should add that I've found at least one paying service - u-net [u-net.net] - to be equally bad), but I'm always slightly amused every time the line gutters and the little xmessage I've patched into ppp-off tells me that 'Your modem connection has been lost.' Why? Because these guys are the first people in the history of capitalism to make money deliberately and directly by providing a bad service. The worse the service, the more support calls they get, and thus the greater their revenue stream. They only have to bring the service down for a couple of seconds and their little callcenters go ballistic and the real money - the value-added goldmine, the support cashcow - starts rolling in.

    Microsoft make money despite providing an unreliable service. They shouldn't find it hard to adjust to this new business model.
  • Deamon internet, the bigest ISP in the UK is owned by Scottish telecom.
  • I'm using freeserve (althought I've still got my demon account for the moment) using it from linux and windows with hardly any problems at all.

    It certainly is just as reliable as demon ever were.
  • Per minute for all calls. There are 3 "Inland" bands - local, regional (up to 35 miles) and long distance, plus international/ 1-900 type/etc. Local calls are 1 pence/minute weekends, 1.5 pence/minute evenings, and 3.95 pence/minute during the day. Full details from BT's website: http://www.s erviceview.bt.com/list/current/docs/Call_Charges/0 0161.htm [bt.com]
  • Speaking as a demon user, I haven't found them
    slowing down at all. The free ones are also more difficult to connect to, with a slower throughput; with demon I connect first time every time.

    Then again, if people are switching to the free ones, that lightens the load on demon, so I really don't follow the logic behind the claims of demon slowing down.

  • 1. Telcos and Cablecos supply broadband packet
    pipes to all homes;

    2. The lines are always open - bye bye the
    connection model;

    3. Each packet is charged according to perceived
    'value added';

    4. Internet packets are free;

    5. Voice (as long as you're talking) is
    at some minimal cost;

    6. Television and music cost more;

    7. Financial data costs more still;

    8. Ultima Online and Doom charged according to
    the service provider's advertising revenue
    or altruism;

    9. Home shopping charged according to the value
    of the purchase authorised by the packet...


    E-commerce is a billing problem, but worth the
    effort. Having an identity in Cyberspace is
    represented by the existence of a connection
    to you. What you do there is charged auto-
    matically (and visibly!). One charging system,
    but a whole new infrastructure....


  • Point to Point connections can never be 'free' for net use, because you need a seperate connection for each user and the phone network was never designed to take any more than 1/10 of the users on-line at any one time.

    ADSL and other 'connectionless' systems are what you need, where once your data is on the net, it can travel by whatever means necessary. POTS was never designed to sustain the kind of connections you want.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Americans don't realise how lucky they are to have true flat rate local calls. That just doesn't exist in Europe.

    My ISP charges only $17/month here in France, and that was one of the cheapest. They will offer free access next month. But my phone bill for connections has always been between $100 and $250/month just for the many hours I spend online.

    Now at least two big ISPs in France have negotiated with France Telecom to keep a share of the phone charges, which allows them to offer free access. But the free access has a price beyond the phone bill, they have you provide huge amounts of personal informations and prove your identity to sign up. Although it is mostly illegal in France to use these informations for other purposes, these companies are already re-selling the informations to all kinds of mailing lists and marketing companies.

    Telecom Eireann in Ireland keeps putting up proposals for flat rate, but not like the american model. They have a plan that adds on to your regular phone bill about $25/month that gives you 50 or 100 hours of calls to a single number of your choice, but excludes ISP dialin numbers. But its a start.
  • I have been reading newsgroups about SW Bell and how bad their ISP service is. ATT Worldnet is going thru the floor on customer satisfaction. Are there any good telco ISPs?
  • On 13 Jan 1999 Freeserve announced [dixons-group-plc.co.uk] that they had 900,000 customers ... although The Register [theregister.co.uk] said they admitted that only 700,000 of these were active. Still somewhat more than 120,000 ...

    Regards, Ralph.
  • I think they should find a better way of doing this because it's not exactly the best way of obtaining someones identity. Someone could get into a lot of trouble if they left their machine accessible and then some of their childrens friends with a weird sense of humour wanted to send a lot of offendsive email, for example, by registering with a free provider online.

    The online registration process is too easy you can just type any crap in the form and it'll accept it (this is the case for most is not all ISPs). There should be some checking of the address and then a form that has to be signed and returned (so people can't say they don't know what they are letting themselves in for with regard to the AUP, etc). Only when the form is feceived should the application be processed. Then the user of the system can be responsible for their own security and someone can't just subscribe to a free ISP without the knowledge of the machines owners.

    Did that make sense?
    --
  • AFAIK these free ISP's are not in any deals with telcos instead they have registered to become a telco themselves so what happens is the person who calls their free ISP is on their telephone network (say BT) and they then call their ISP which is their own Telco. Therefore the customers telco has to split the charge with the ISP for connecting to their network.

    Think of this another way. In the UK Cable companies can compete with BT and offer a phone service (and so can anyone else) people on a Cable network can still phone BT and other phone networks but if you're making a call cross network then the two telcos have to split the charge.

    So although the ISP's don't offer a telephone service as such they've paid their registration fees and therefore get their cut of the money without charging any more than a local rate call.

    Of course support is another matter, most of these free ISPs have terrible support and charge a fortune for it in expensive phone calls. But then not many people need support.
    --
  • by Anonymous Coward
    OK, I know most of the freebie ISPs will work with Linux (although I doubt MSN will) but none of these ISPs officially support Linux or other UNIXes. There is a massive market in the free ISP business but people won't be tempted over to Linux if their ISP signup CD doesn't mention Linux and they have to think about getting it working themselves. Linux has made leaps and bounds in usability lately with KDE and GNOME and other stuff like that but to set up an ISP connection you still need some knowledge. Wouldn't it be great if you could get a CD which would then set up all your preferences so that you could use KDE or GNOME to access the internet with one click (or with password if other people can access your machine). While it's there it could ask if you wanted Netscape installed or upgraded. For non-gnome/kde users having the software on the disk and some instructions to sign up would also help to make the task easier.

    Why doesn't one of the UK's supporters of Linux such as the UK UNIX users group (UKUUG) [ukuug.org] offer to assist any ISP who wants to offer Linux support in return for a small fee which would go to the organising of conferences. Alternativly the UKUUG could team up with some other major UK Linux organisations and put the capital together to offer such a service. Personally I'd like to see an ISP that actually supports Linux rather than one that just works with Linux.

  • Actually, no, I don't want free local calls, or at least not to ISPs. Do *you* want to pay the massive subscription increases that would follow it? (And no, free isps wouldn't exist.)

    Not to mention the massive net congestion that would result as everyone frantically downloads masses of pr0n.
  • 100 quid a month is pretty heavy use. I used to pay around 30 quid a month and I was on the Internet every night - you just get used to using it sparingly (download emails - hang up - read and reply - phone up again - upload).

    Out of interest MSN are just jumping on the bandwagon of become-free-or-die. My own personal experience as a mailing list owner is that people are leaving AOL and the like in swarms to the new free ISPs such as Freeserve (the original and biggest).

    Something new has also happened in the UK. A Telco has set up a ISP and are giving free calls to their ISP service if you sign up to use them for your phone calls instead of British Telecom (BT). There called screaming.net if anyone's interested.

    Of course I recently moved to California so I now get my ISP calls free - and have a dial in via my office - so it's 100% free for me... nice. :o)
  • I've heard some users of free ISPs report that their connections can be flaky, and the phone lines are often busy. It seems that some free ISPs are becoming victims of their own success. Can anyone here who uses a free ISP confirm or deny these reports? Quite what MSN's service will be like now is anyone's guess; they were flaky enough before going free...

    By contrast, U-Net [u-net.net], the subscription-funded ISP that I have an account with, has very few problems; I connect first time nearly every time I dial, and I get fast transfer rates (connects are typically 52kbps using a V90 modem and a cable phone line).

  • OFTEL have said they're not going to change anything for now. Originally there were complaints from BT which basically amounted to "we're subsidising other people's businesses", and they wanted to be able to set their own rate to pay telcos for terminating calls from them.

    The free ISPs aren't running as competition to the telcos: the telco gets money for terminating the call ( usually from BT, it depends who they interconnect with ) and shares it with the free ISP for generating the call in the first place. Thus the ISP survives by living off the telco industries profits ( mostly BT, hence the complaints ) and revenue from support calls ( also telco profits ). Some of them may get further income from selling ad space, although as there's loads of them ( you can buy a free ISP "off the shelf".. I know, we sell them ), the ones who forgo this are going to gain more customers and hence more call revenue. The few ISPs who are also telcos in their own right generally don't want to bother providing phone service to end-users, other than specialised services like international calls or peak-rate 0898 numbers.

    Actually the phone numbers aren't cheaper: they're fixed-rate national numbers like 0845, which can work out as slightly more expensive given that most telcos do deals for local calls. We keep our old national POP system in place for customers who want to use the Cable&Wireless 50p weekend deal, after much pressure from them.

    BT are in a strange position: they own the national telephone network, are forced to provide services to new telcos now the network is deregulated, and have to answer to their shareholders: but they're only in the position they are because they were handed a monopoly on a plate. I'm just waiting for Railtrack ( who also have a large private telco network ) to join in.. given their level of service to the train companies, I can't imagine how bad their phone service would be.

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