Totalise turns tables on unmetered

A whole new model for unmetered - Totalise's subscribers will also be its shareholders

ISP Totalise launches an unmetered service Wednesday. It also soundly criticises other unmetered services and the slow roll out of a viable wholesale alternative to SurfTime.

While others are busying dumping unmetered access, Totalise -- the ISP which turns subscribers into shareholders -- is embracing the model. It is confident it won't fall into the same trap as its predecessors and is immensely cynical about how other so-called free services are operating.

Chief executive of Totalise Peter Gregory is "astonished" that ISPs have got away with not refunding users when they ditch services and accuses ntl and others of using deliberate "delaying tactics" in slowing down the number of people who can subscribe.

The reason ISPs are delaying launching services and restricting the number of users is, in Gregory's opinion, because they are all waiting for BT to launch Friaco. "We don't believe everyone is abandoning unmetered, they are just waiting for Friaco," he says.

Friaco is regarded as the first real step towards sensible unmetered access as operators finally stop paying BT per minute for calls -- SurfTime is the current option but part of the call is still paid for per minute and it has only been taken up by a handful of operators.

Gregory is critical about the delays to rolling out Friaco. "We were originally promised it at the beginning of July, then at the beginning of August," he explains.

"Obviously BT is looking after its shareholders and it is in its interests to move as slowly as it can on this."

He is also unhappy with the way BT is forcing ISPs to build out equipment to the local exchange -- where they connect with BT's lines. "BT wants ISPs to put equipment into 300 exchanges which is no easy job," he says.

It is up to government to "give Oftel more teeth" in order to move the Friaco agreement forward, Gregory believes. In its turn, Oftel promises Friaco will happen "very soon" but Gregory remains sceptical. "It won't suddenly hit the country. I expect it to cover about 80 percent of the population by March," he predicts.

Those wishing to take up Totalise's unmetered service -- dubbed "The Ultimate Surf" -- will pay an initial fee of £235 in return for £400 worth of shares in the firm, which Gregory claims will cover the initial sign-up fee if sold. Users will get 100 hours of Internet time per month, which they can use at peak and off-peak times. Totalise plans to shift to an unlimited 24/7 model as soon as Friaco becomes available -- in the next three months.

Totalise is confident its unmetered offering will not suffer the same fate as its predecessors and to avoid registration delays and jammed lines the service will initially be limited to 100,000 customers with a cut-off time of one hour. It is also keen to make as much money out of e-commerce as possible and offers various rebates, including a service to import cheaper cars from abroad.

Users will have to switch their BT accounts to Totalise Telecom and the ISP is promising reductions of up to 40 percent on voice calls.

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