Only four of Britain's estimated 400 or so ISPs will offer British Telecom's SurfTime when it goes live Thursday. Even BT's own Internet firm will only offer a restricted version of the beleaguered service.
SurfTime was intended as BT's (quote: BT) flagship unmetered service but suffered a near fatal setback last week when the telecommunications watchdog Oftel ruled that an alternative version be made available for other telcos.
In effect, BT has been forced to launch SurfTime and its alternative on the same day. The alternative offering is widely expected to be cheaper and more widely adopted than its sibling.
According to BT's press office, only Freeserve, BT Internet, BT Click and PlusNet will launch the service Thursday. Gartner Group analyst Adam Daum is not impressed. "I'm sure SurfTime was designed in the expectation that this [Oftel] ruling would not come in so quickly," he says. "It doesn't look as if it is going to be wildly popular."
BT remains optimistic that other ISPs will use SurfTime. "In due course we are confident that many more will but we can't force them," says a spokesman.
BT's own ISP BT Internet is only offering the £5.99 per month weekend and evening option of SurfTime, a decision Daum describes as "pathetic". "That is not impressive. Unmetered evening and weekend access has been on offer for nine months. It ought to roll out the 24x7 service," he says.
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