Campaign for Unmetered Telecommunications
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  • Telecoms Industry Stance

    When it was privatised, BT was discouraged from offering unmetered calls as the Government and regulatory bodies felt that this would give them an unfair advantage in a market in which they already had an overwhelmingly large share.

    By contrast cable operators have complete freedom to structure their charges however they see fit, and a few have unmetered schemes of one kind or another. For example, Telewest Communications support off-peak unmetered voice calls between subscribers local to each other on their network: to of Cable and Wireless Communications whose contracts were previously with Videotron enjoy unmetered off-peak 'cable-cable' calls for voice and data.

    OFTEL's remit to regulate BT's prices ends in the year 2001, and not only have BT not put pressure to bear on OFTEL to relax the current rules about unmetered calls, they appear not to have any plans to offer them after the present regulatory régime ends.

    In the face of BT's reluctance, other telecommunications operators providing services direct to the home saw little need to take the first step, as their pricing structure was and still is invariably one of 'BT minus 10 per cent'. Cable and Wireless Communications made a small breakthrough by introducing the concept of paying for blocks of time in advance but, when converted to cost per minute, this method offered little price advantage.

    Others (bandwidth providers, resellers and large ISPs) finally stepped into the vacuum with, in the first instance, and GreatXscape offering unmetered Internet access (not voice calls), and no doubt other organisations to follow.

    We are waiting to see how the cable industry, in particular, will respond: we are aware of many people coming back to BT as, at the time of writing, all 'second-generation' unmetered offers depend on a BT line at home.

    Text by Richard Sliwa

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