Campaign for Unmetered Telecommunications

A freak show of offers (27 October 1999)

Telinco has launched an '0800 ISP', strayduck, with an extraordinary charging structure. Their description:

0800 internet access, completely free, one week in three

you access the Internet on an 0845 number for 2 weeks, then access the Internet on an 0800 number for 1 week, and the cycle continues!

Why should an organisation which is no fool - it is a bandwidth provider and major player in the UK telecommunications market - produce such an offer? One reason is enough:

Metered interconnect charges

We seem to have written about these for decades! We briefed Patricia Hewitt who will be taking the issues we raised to BT and OFTEL: they explain why Telinco and others are trying their hardest but not quite getting there.

When telecommunications operators work together to carry a call across more than one network the charges for access to the networks are shared between operators. These charges are levied by the minute in a structure worked out and implemented by OFTEL.

To mask those metered interconnect charges various accounting tricks are being used at the moment:

  • charge a high monthly subscription fee to completely subsidise unmetered data calls (08004u);

  • charge a lower monthly subscription fee to subsidise unmetered data calls at limited times (BT Internet, ClaraNET, F9);

  • use metered voice calls and peak data calls to subsidise unmetered off-peak data calls (greatxscape,;

  • meter data calls most of the time and use the interconnect charges gathered to subsidise unmetered access at limited times or a limited amount of unmetered access per month (X-Stream, Freeserve, strayduck);

  • charge a subscription fee plus a relatively high rate off-peak, using it to subsidise peak data calls (AOL).
All those methods assume calls crossing networks; for calls kept within a single operator's network there are no interconnect charges.

You can see that the metered interconnect charge has spawned a freak show of offers: no doubt more exhibits will appear in due course.

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