Campaign for Unmetered Telecommunications

What to look for now (5 February 2001)

The prospects for sustainable unmetered internet access offerings improved considerably when, on 18 January 2001, BT Ignite launched its wholesale Flat Rate Internet Access Call Origination (FRIACO) service for ISPs and Other Licensed Operators (OLOs). This wholesale managed service offering grooms traffic off BT's network at the local exchange level onto BT's Internet Protocol (IP) Colossus network for delivery to ISP or OLO networks. This is a totally distinct service from BT SurfTime, a retail phone service for which BT directly bills subscribers for providing unmetered access to a participating ISP with the subscriber paying an additional subscriber fee directly to the ISP. BT launched SurfPort24 in order to compete directly with OLOs such as Worldcom, Viatel and Energis in providing FRIACO-based managed services, even though it would undermine its £19.95 per month pricing for its SurfTime 24/7 service. SurfPort24 is currently available in major BT exchanges and will be fully rolled out across the UK by April 2001.

In the wake of SurfPort24's launch, several major UK ISPs announced retail unmetered offerings based wholly or partially on it. Freeserve swiftly announced the availability of Freeserve AnyTime which is a 24/7 unmetered access service priced at £12.99 per month, undercutting AOL Flat Rate by £2 per month. Freeserve AnyTime registrations are being capacity controlled to avoid overwhelming Freeserve's ISP service and demand was such that Freeserve suspended registrations after they hit 10,000 on the first day. It is not clear how long such capacity controls will be necessary, but the situation should improve over time.

BT Internet launched its own Anytime 24/7 unmetered service for £14.99 per month shortly after Freeserve on 26 January 2001. Other ISPs such as ClaraNet and PlusNet are planning to offer similar services in March or April, so UK consumers can expect to have a wider range of choices for unmetered access in the coming months.

In making a selection, do not only look at the monthly price but also carefully consider the following factors which can vary significantly from ISP to ISP:

  • Is Internet access restricted to calling from a specific phone number or can it be accessed from any number? (Number portability can be very important if you want to access the Internet from more than one place)

  • Is a BT or phone line required? (SurfPort24-based plans after March will require use of a BT line, as will any other FRIACO-based offering, since FRIACO is a wholesale BT service)

  • Is there a mandatory cut-off period? (Many ISPs cut off the connection after two hours of usage)

  • Is there an idle kick-off period? (Some ISPs cut off the connection after a few minutes of inactivity)

  • Are there any restrictions on data transfer volumes per day? (One ISP mandates 250Mb/day maximum)

  • What is the quality of the service in terms of ease of connection, sustainability of connection and connection speed?

  • Is there a forced proxy or caching server between you and the Internet? These can be troublesome in failing to show the true up-to-date state of a remote website

  • Are customer service calls free or charged for by the minute?

  • What is the quality of customer service in terms of response time and technical support?

  • What payment options are available? (Many only accept credit cards)

  • How long will it take from the time you sign up for the service until you are able to use it? (Some ISPs force you to terminate your old service plan before signing up for their 24/7 unmetered plan - do not get left without internet access!)

  • How much useful proprietary content does the ISP provide?

  • What browsers are supported?

  • What operating systems are supported? (Some ISPs do not support MacOS)

  • What is the modem contention ratio? (Most ISPs will not tell you this, but they should! It should be 10:1 or less, preferably between 6:1 and 8:1)

  • Does the ISP have a policy of kicking heavy internet users off its services?
The UK is still in the early stages of moving to FRIACO based unmetered access plans: FRIACO is only partially implemented and many subscribers to FRIACO based plans are not yet connecting through FRIACO because networks are still being upgraded. If the dialup access number you are using is within BT's 0808 99xxxxx range you are using FRIACO; any other dialup number is not FRIACO.

[ Home ] [ About ] [ Analysis ] [ Solutions ] [ Mythbusters ] [ Get Involved ]
[ News ] [ Features ] [ Reference ] [ Discussion ] [ Press ] [ Diary ]
[ Members ] [ Contact ] [ Site Map ] [ Search ] [ Links ]

Site design by Richard Sliwa
based on an original concept by Runic Design.
© CUT 2001. Last updated 5 February 2001.