Freeserve to bar heavy users

Some users are logging on up to 30 hours in a 24 hour period, service provider claims

British Internet service provider Freeserve (quote: FRE) is planning to kick off users who abuse the "unlimited" aspect of Freeserve Unlimited, one of the ISP's subscription packages for heavy users.

"Unlimited" does not actually mean unlimited, as it turns out. "It doesn't mean always-on," says a company spokeswoman. "For people who do want a permanent connection to the Internet, that's why the industry is rolling out ADSL."

She explains a small number -- less than one percent -- of Freeserve subscribers are using their dialup connection to keep their businesses connected to the Internet or to immerse themselves in online games. These heavy users are staying online for an average of 16 hours a day, and even, weirdly, as much as 30 hours in a 24 hour period -- accomplished by logging on several PCs through a single dialup line or linking two lines together.

The excessive users will be notified by letter in the next couple of days and will be barred from the service if they do not change their practices within a designated warning period, according to Freeserve. The company is to post a statement on its Web site later Thursday.

Freeserve says the heavy users are violating a portion of the terms and conditions agreement, signed by every subscriber, which prohibits "abnormal" use. "The agreement bars them from using the service in a manner which in our opinion makes abnormal demands on the network from a single connection," the spokeswoman says. However, Freeserve does not give an exact limit to the amount of time users can stay logged on.

Freeserve Unlimited costs £10 per month, unless telephone connection charges amount to £10 or more, in which case it is free. However, users must switch to Energis as their telecoms provider.

Freeserve also resells BT's SurfTime flat-rate access and offers ADSL.

Because of the pricing structure of the British telecoms market, industry analysts say ISPs cannot support always-on connectivity over a dialup connection. Unmetered pioneers such as CallNet have run into financial difficulties and AltaVista UK recently scrapped a planned flat rate service.

World Online and Breathe have both set limits on their flat-rate packages, and Breathe has barred 500 subscribers for excessive use.

How can you get online for less? Find out in the Unmetered Access Special.

Are flat-rate ISPs right to bar heavy users? To have your say online click on the TalkBack button and go to the ZDNet News forum.

Let the editors know what you think in the Mailroom. And read what others have said.

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