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Competing ISP tariffs - a confusopoly?

By Burb in Internet
Thu Nov 02, 2000 at 12:43:10 PM EST
Tags: Internet (all tags)

I've been connected to the net for home and small office use for about 6 years, and for most of that time I've been connected through the same ISP which, on the whole, has done the job pretty well. I pay a monthly fee, and I connect using a local rate number at typical rates. My needs are changing, and I now I need extensive access to the Internet during office hours, which are currently the most expensive. So I shop around for a new ISP that gives me reasonable fixed-price access during office hours. Then my head hurts. Why is it so hard to make comparisons?

One of Scott Adams' Dilbert business books talks about a "confusopoly": companies holding a virtual monopoly on goods or services by making consumers so confused by hard-to-compare tariffs. Is that what we have here?

It's interesting to compare this to the financial services market. When shopping around for a loan, I can at least compare the basic cost of competing products by looking at the APR. It's a legal requirement in the UK (and maybe elsewhere; your mileage may vary) for anyone selling a loan to quote the APR, and it makes it a little easier to compare the products. Yes, each loan or mortgage may have its own gimmicks, such as payment holidays, the ability to pay off lump sums from the capital without penalty, and so on. But with the APR figure I can get a handle on how much it's going to cost me.

Of course there are other considerations in choosing an ISP or arranging a loan apart from the cost. But let's face it, cost is an issue, and anything that makes it possible to compare costs objectively would be helpful.

Obligatory geographical note: I am in the UK. I suspect that similar problems exist elsewhere in Europe. I can't speak for anywhere else. While I'm interested to hear about other countries, I suggest we assume for the purposes of the discussion that moving to the USA is not an option for me (he smiles).


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Competing ISP tariffs - a confusopoly? | 9 comments (4 topical, 5 editorial, 0 hidden)
Tarrifs? (4.50 / 4) (#5)
by B'Trey on Thu Nov 02, 2000 at 09:19:48 AM EST

Granted that you can't move to the US, it's still interesting to compare how things work here and there. Most ISP's here (at least, most that I'm familiar with) provide flat rate pricing. You pay a monthly fee for unlimited access. There are even free ISPs - you call a toll free number for a modem commection and have to put up with a banner advertisement on your desktop.

In my part of the country (East Coast), costs are typically $12 to $20 a month for unlimited dial-up access. (To get the lower fees, you usually have to pre-pay for a year or longer.) High speed access (DSL, cable modems) cost you about $30 to $50 a month. Again, that's a flat fee for unlimited access. I pay a bit more ($80 a month) for DSL, but I have no restrictions on my use - I can run a web server, ftp site, etc. Most home connections forbid such uses.

If you're looking for a high-speed business connection (a T-1 connection, or multiple DSL connections, for example) you're going to pay a bit more. It depends a great deal upon the service you request. I haven't made extensive inquiries into this type of access but most of the offers I've seen were for flat rate access.

Your choices. Well, most of them... (4.00 / 2) (#7)
by alisdair on Thu Nov 02, 2000 at 11:37:08 AM EST

You haven't mentioned explicitly what kind of bandwidth you're looking for, nor how much a `reasonable fixed-price' is. Depending on these two factors, there are several options:

  1. ADSL: providers are companies like <a href="http://www.mailbox.net.uk/">Mailbox, <a href="http://www.demon.net/">Demon, <a href="http://www.freeserve.co.uk/">FreeServe, and <a href="http://www.btinternet.com/">BT. You get something in the region of 512Kb/s to 1Mb/s download, normally 128Kb/s upload speeds. There are no usage charges, but you're looking at between £50 and £200 per month. Oh, and a £250 installation charge.
  2. Cable modems: the only two I know about are <a href="http://www.ntl.com/">NTL and <a href="http://www.blueyonder.co.uk/">Telewest (*spit*). Similar to ADSL, but cheaper: Telewest offer £25 per month access at 512K/128K, NTL are doing a similar deal at the moment. The only difficulty you'll have is persuading them to connect you: you may have to make it a personal billing, as neither company wants to supply cable modems to businesses.
  3. 0800 (free) modem access: several of my friends and family use <a href="http://www.ntlworld.com/">NTLworld for free 56K modem access. No-one is particularly disappointed: service is reasonable, you get normally around 35Kb/s connection. The difficulty is that the service is occasionally unreliable, and you may be unable to connect for a few hours every so often. I'm sure there are other similar providers: would anyone like to point them out?

So, really, the state of fixed rate access in the UK is pretty pathetic. I'm lucky enough to share a flat with two other geeks, so we split NTL's £40 per month for a 512K/128K cable modem quite happily: other people aren't so well off.

Coverage (none / 0) (#9)
by Burb on Fri Nov 03, 2000 at 05:46:18 AM EST

Thanks for the suggestions.

I'm even more limited than the short list suggests, since NTL is not yet offering cable modems in my area (Swindon, Wiltshire). Which is odd, considering the town is one of the best-cabled places in the UK.

[ Parent ]

NTL (none / 0) (#8)
by m4rk on Thu Nov 02, 2000 at 01:50:14 PM EST

I use NTLworld for my dialup. I can't remember the exact pricing plan, but if you have an NTL phone line the service is basically free, but if you use a different telco you will have to pay 10 per month. It's a 24/7 0800 number (free), with perfectly acceptable performance and reliability. You do get kicked off after 2 hours or 5 minutes of inactivity, however (the clock on my IRC client fixes the latter though :~)).

Alternatively, wait for ADSL to reach your area. Options include 512kb USB modem with 50:1 contention ratio for 40 per month, or 512kb managed ADSL/ethernet router solution with 20:1 contention ratio for 100 per month. Both are 'always-on'. Your local ISP should be able to offer an ADSL connection when it becomes available in your area. Check BT's ADSL site for more details. (Yes I just did a BT ADSL course!).

Competing ISP tariffs - a confusopoly? | 9 comments (4 topical, 5 editorial, 0 hidden)
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