Campaign for Unmetered Telecommunications

  • Is this site really necessary?
  • Don't 'free' ISPs kill your argument?
  • Unmetered local calls will never happen
  • But electricity and gas are metered
  • The problem is the cost of PCs
  • The network can't cope!
  • Dial 999 for unmetered
  • Metered local call charges are reasonable
  • Why should I pay for someone else's calls?
  • Computer gamers will cause trouble
  • ISP charges would replace phone charges
  • An American Mythbuster
  • Unmetered calls would trouble ISPs
  • People on low incomes would be affected
  • Unmetered calls would favour the South-East
  • But electricity and gas are metered

    We all accept metering of electricity and gas supplies; what's so differenct about telecommunications?

    Everything turns on the efficiency of use of the medium.

    With gas or electricity, what comes down the wire or pipe is used - running your boiler, powering a lightbulb or whatever. There may be transmission losses of electricity or the boiler may need servicing, but the gas and electricity you consume are used relatively efficiently. There is a finite resource which needs to be produced or generated, and which you are using up. You do require four times the amount of gas to keep four hobs on your stove burning rather than just one.You do use five times the electicity to keep a 100 Watt lightbulb on than you would for a 20 Watt one.

    But, when you use your telephone, you do not use six times the resources to hold a one hour telephone conversation rather than a 10-minute one. So why should you pay six times more?

    Furthermore, when you are online, your modem and telephone line will be idle for a large proportion of your connected time, yet you are paying for every second. This contradiction can only get worse; it would be even more silly to pay by the second for a megabyte-per-second cable modem connection that could spend an even larger proportion of its time doing nothing.

    For gas and electricity what you use is what you pay for; with a telephone metered by time you're paying, overwhelmingly, for what you don't use. The other form of metering - by the amount of data transferred in a session - is the lesser of two evils, but it's still a constraint. Often you have no control over how much data you have to download to get at the information you want; look at the number of sites that use huge graphics, plugins or whatever, never mind bad structure or presentation.

    We should no longer consider telecommunications as a utility in the same way as electricity or gas. We should place telecommunications, and the Internet in particular, with other communications media. Terrestrial television or radio broadcasts are not metered by time, and there would be an uproar if such a thing was introduced. With cable or satellite television, you pay per channel (or bundle of channels), per month. The technologies involved to get cable TV to your home are no different to those involved in providing telephony services.

    All we ask is for the same logic which applies to cable TV to apply to our telephone services.

    Text Richard Sliwa and Alastair Scott

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