Campaign for Unmetered Telecommunications

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  • Hull as Utopia

    The citizens of Hull, a city on the Humber in Yorkshire in the north of England, enjoy unmetered local phone calls.

    Until February 2000, and the Telewest offer, they were the only people in the UK with such a service. In fact, Hull has benefited from unmetered local calls for many decades thanks to the foresight of Hull City Council, which in 1902 obtained a license to run a local telephone service set apart from the national network. The national network became part of the General Post Office and then was given to British Telecommunications on privatisation: the Hull network is now part of Kingston Communications. Both BT and Kingston Communications, as dominant operators in the (vastly different) geographical areas they cover, are under the same regulatory regime, mandated by OFTEL.

    Kingston Communications was floated on the London Stock Exchange in 1999. This flotation was judged to be the best Initial Public Offering (IPO) in the world that year by a poll of major banks conducted by International Equity Review and Euroweek.

    Kingston Communications offers unmetered calls to its Hull residential subscribers under two basic pricing plans. The first plan charges local calls at a flat rate of 5.5p irrespective of the total duration of the call, in addition to a subscription fee of 5.60pcm. The second plan provides for unlimited local calls at no additional cost above a subscription fee of 15.25pcm. Businesses are also offered unmetered local calls but are charged 10.40pcm and 35.75pcm respectively for the two plans with the same per-call charge of 5.5p for the first plan only. These reasonably priced call plans are for voice calls and data calls to Kingston Internet, the local Internet Service Provider (all prices excluding VAT).

    In contrast, BT has recently proposed BT Surftime - an unmetered plan, for Internet calls only, which looks as though it will cost at least £35 per month for a similar service to that provided by Kingston Internet!

    Text by Charlie Sands

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