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BT: Anytime can't mean 'all of the time'

'BT Sometimes' hasn't got the same appeal, but the telco reckons that its unmetered narrowband service can't accomodate customers who use it too much, or at the wrong time
Written by Graeme Wearden, Contributor

BT said on Monday that narrowband unmetered Internet access packages can't cope with the kind of customers who expect to be connected to the Internet almost constantly, after it said it would send letters to 30,000 BT Anytime subscribers suggesting that they might like to consider moving up to a broadband connection.

Duncan Ingram, senior vice-president of BTopenworld, told ZDNet UK News that some BT Anytime customers want to use the service in a way that isn't economically viable, and has a detrimental impact on every other subscriber. "It's hard to say exactly how much they use the Net. Basically, these are people who are regularly logged on, usually at peak times, and staying on for a very long duration," Ingram said.

Put simply, BT's unmetered Internet system can't cope if some users want to be constantly connected. The result is that it becomes much harder for other people to get logged on at all, and BT insists this isn't down to bad network management. "This is a problem affecting the whole industry," said Ingram.

Having corralled over 30,000 heavy users by making them use a different phone number to access the Net, BT is poised to axe around 1,000 of these users, who it claims have been guilty of breaking its terms and conditions -- either by being logged on for more than 16 hours in a 24-hour period, or by letting other people use their subscription to get free surfing.

BT isn't planning to throw the rest off the service, but nor is it promising that the often-disappointing service they've been receiving will get better.

These 30,000 individuals are currently using a service that gives them a ratio of three users to each available connection, compared to Anytime's usual ratio of around ten to one. Ingram admits that this attempted solution hasn't worked, and that a ratio of 1.5 users to each available connection is needed. "This would cost BT around £100 per month per user, and therefore isn't viable."

BT is sending out a letter this week to all 30,000 users, explaining that it is throwing off 1,000 network abusers, but warning that it can't guarantee that the remaining users will get a better service. It's even offering these people a month's subscription if they agree to leave -- a clear indication that BT isn't best pleased about having to offer a 3 to 1 "contention ratio" for the foreseeable future.

It's not clear how these users will react to this letter. After all, having paid their money for unmetered access they may well expect to get Internet access whenever they like for as long as they like. Ingram doesn't think this expectation is reasonable. "Remember, the service isn't called 'BT All Of The Time'," he said. Ingram denied that, in that case, renaming the service "BT Some Of The Time" would be more honest.

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