ISPreview - The Unmetered Chaos

ISP Review takes a look at the diminishing trust in unmetered ISPs

The Unmetered Chaos
By Mark Jackson : October 25th 2001 : Page 1 of 4

"Since then UK ISPs have seen the equivalent of a small internal revolution almost every two years"


Unmetered Internet access and ISPs in general have come along way since their humble 1990's beginnings in the UK, when text based BBS's (bulletin board systems) were the only way to communicate with an undiscovered electronic world.

Since then UK ISPs have seen the equivalent of a small internal revolution almost every two years, each time more noticeable and each time more important. The move from BBS to multimedia, National Rate call rate charges to local rate and then from local rate to unmetered and finally broadband.

Each change has been ever more dramatic, but none so much as the introduction of unmetered services, which still overshadows even that of emerging broadband technologies. In this article ISP Review will attempt to investigate the reasons for this and hopefully answer a few commonly asked questions along the way.

Unmetered, is that even economical?

Unlike North America (USA) the UK wasn't designed to handle unmetered ISP services, thus when Screaming.net became the first to offer off-peak unmetered during the spring of 1999 it was a recipe for disaster. By the dawn of the new millennium, Screaming.net along with several other ISPs (08004u, EzeSurf etc.) had bitten the bullet.

At the same time providers such as BTInternet, Force9, FreeUK and Clara.net etc. were starting to dip in with weekend 0800 (unmetered) offers and off-peak options. Some such as RedHotAnt, VisualDepth, Callnet0800 and Buzzline etc. soon arose to offer 24/7 unmetered options, which were destined to be failures due to a serious misunderstand of those using the service, the customers.

Overall any ISP starting some form of unmetered service between the spring of 1999 and the same period 12 months later were stepping on hollow ground. A lack of support for such services by operators and the still misunderstood usage habits of Internet users caused many ISPs to sign their own death.

Unmetered services through this period did little more than gamble on light usage patterns, 0800 or not, the ISP still had to pay a slightly cheaper Local Call Rate charge for the time customers used. The idea being that those whom barely used the Internet would off-set the ones using it more, hopefully with a profit margin in-between. It failed.

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