The Goodwins Perspective

Rupert Goodwins turns his attention to news this week that Demon has lost its boss. Epidemic among UK ISPs desperate to board the free access model? Goodwins knows...

If anyone was in any doubt over the hyperactive state of the ISP industry, Demon's recent loss of its MD, Roy Bliss, shows just how much the industry is changing.

His departure comes as Demon -- along with every other traditional subscription ISP -- is rumoured to be preparing its own free service, in Demon's case the amusingly named Scot Free. Coincidentally -- or not -- the owners of Scottish Telecom are apparently feeling that the time is right to sell the company.

This tsunami of change isn't limited to the top bods. At all levels within ISPs, the turnover in staff is very high -- both because of rapid restructuring and because the feeling of constant reinvention in an unknown world can sometimes transmute to panic. "There are loads of very good ISP staff on the market at the moment" said one source, "and there'll be lots more."

Unfortunately, we all experience the downside of this. Without a measure of stability within the industry, it's hard to build up teams with the experience to handle problems -- in technical, financial and user-support areas -- and any company that is prepared to weather the current storms without metamorphic spasms may well find itself gaining the sort of reputation that'll soon be the only selling point worth having. As it is, the number of times that users report poor connections, unhelpful helplines and insoluble problems is increasing -- and the ISPs are in danger of mutating themselves out of the market.