The man behind free Net access - Exclusive (Part 2)

CallNet's chief addresses demand, encryption and makes an apology...


ZDNet News UK: So you did not underestimate demand and yet demand outstripped supply. You say that you were only expecting 200,000 users by Christmas. That's near on three months. Does that not strike you as naive? CallNet CEO, Aaron Goodman-Simpson : 200,000 is not naive. Demand has been more than we predicted. Isn't that a definition of underestimating demand? I wish the press would stop hounding up about this. It's very easy for experts. If we are so damn foolish why have we got so many people trying to log on to our service? The press will go on about us being very foolish, naive, et cetera, but it's two weeks later and we're still getting hundreds of mails. But it's not a problem. It's demand. We realise we are the path finders. I understand you are frustrated that people have been disappointed but what I'm talking about is words like naive, et cetera. But this area of the market has not been addressed. We are the first. Launching a service like this, did it not occur to you that you'd need credit card details? Our initial aim was to take those details over the phone through call centres. It was an oversight that the site didn't have proper encryption in place. But we believe that our systems are secure. We had a glitch. We are human. We made a mistake. We don't believe that anyone has had any problems. Nothing whatsoever. The risk was negligible and we haven't had a single problem reported. We use a Verisign encryption called Thawte. Launching the site without proper encryption for the security of your customers, does that strike you as competent? We are very proud of the people we have working for us. Any company could have made mistakes. Now you have two choices either you can have a witch hunt or you can let us improve things and get on with it. We believe in being responsible, and people that know us in terms of our technology know that we have always been a pathfinder. We had a glitch. Security wasn't affected, but we would like to move on. Wouldn't you expect your users to be bitterly disappointed at the performance of CallNet thus far? First of all we have expanded our procedures to get people online ASAP and once we've hit our stated target [200,000] we then say two things. Either let's go on or, give us 30 days to put into place the infrastructure to cope with further demand. You should look at the recent Which review of ISPs, we were one of the smallest but we were the only ISP to achieve three five-star ratings. Isn't it time you owned up to a series of cock-ups and apologised? That's a very emotive question. But yes, we, I apologise. We understand that people will be frustrated at not being able to get on the system. All our partners are trying their very best and we are trying to expand things as best we can. How long will it be before backlog clears? Realistically we expect to clear the backlog within seven days (by November 18). But you have to understand we are faced with a situation where many people have logged on say three or more times. How can you be sure? We are hoping to contact as many people as we can to tell them that their details have been received and to inform them of the backlog. CallNet will create an email address for people to say they have registered with us so that we can verify registered users and if people have registered multiple times we can then clean up our database and provide the service our customers deserve. Do you have experience of trying to use CallNet? Tell the Mailroom

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