IT's Like This: Cost is gone, get on.

This weekend, when I told friends the Net would be completely free from Monday, I got one response: "How do I get it?"

Well for a start, please don't send me any more emails asking to subscribe... I'm just the messenger here. Visit CallNet's Web site and, if it has done the work it promised last week, you should be able to register today.

If it hasn't and the service does collapse -- as widely predicted -- it will be a great shame. But don't worry too much. I reckon you can count on similar announcements from other companies imminently.

That's the view of the analysts who looked at last week's news with a typical dose of pessimism, backed up by at least a year's worth of experience dealing with this seemingly organic 'Free Internet' phenomenon. Personally I hope CallNet's debut goes smoothly because:

  • You get to go online free

  • It will encourage other companies to do the same, or similar

  • It shows up BT's 'Together' as the lame attempt it really is...

That said, having listened to CallNet's business model -- basically if you use its 145 voice call service, BT pays it for sending the business its way and that will support the free Internet access -- I'm a tad concerned.

If your whole business model relies on getting hundreds of thousands of people to dial 145 before ringing their regular phone numbers... well, we'll see.

I'll do it. That's because I support any organisation that can illustrate, constructively, the sheer disregard BT has for Internet users in the UK. How ironic that on Sunday BT launched its 'Together' service aimed at reducing costs, but not going far enough.

I had to laugh. Tickled pink I was that on Monday, CallNet, a diminutive little firm with the gall to stand up and say, "It can be done..." will make BT's latest effort look so very dull.

"We make Internet access as reasonably priced as we can." That's not a direct quote from a BT spokesman, that's what I know a BT spokesperson will say when asked about giving Net users a break. "Things will change when the loop opens,"

Yeah yeah.

I felt a little tremor of concern too.

This tiny little blip stepping out into the world of telecoms monoliths, how will it manage? Well hopefully its infrastructure will cope with initial demand. If it doesn't word'll spread that CallNet 'ain't upto it' and customers will have to endure the same level of non-service that shot Screaming.Net to fame (oh congratulations Screaming.Net on admitting you made mistakes. Maybe a few other ISPs could do the same...).

I hope the little guy gets all the support it needs from the parent companies. Just keep adding capacity guys and stay honest when things go wrong. People will understand if you're straight with them. They want what you're offering and they know what you're up against.

Free access will break down the most significant barrier to intensive use of the Net and as we enter the new millennium with European competitors gearing up to take us on, we need this. This will ensure we get to use the Net whenever we want without worrying about paying BT.

If that sounds too dramatic, think of all the Internet games you can play on your new Dreamcast or Playstation2... for FREE!

I'm signing up. I want to download Net video and music. I want to not worry about download time on the latest software patches or virus scanners that will make sure my machine will stay productive. But most of all I want to log onto the Internet and do all the things I want to do online without having to worry about costs.

I'll dial 145 before all my voice calls to enjoy that privilege. If you want this thing to work, I suggest you do the same.

Think this will work? If you do, tell the Mailroom , if you don't, tell the Mailroom

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