Advantages Cheap calls priced per minute, no cut-off time, reputable company, choice of packages
Disadvantages May prove expensive for heavy internet users
My quest to find a new ISP started yesterday. With the not exactly surprising (but nonetheless tragic) demise of RedHotAnt (R.I.P), I needed quick and cheap access to the internet in order to continue my blossoming online literary career. (Or in other words, so I could keep on Ciao-ing).Resorting to my original Freeserve connection (and trying desperately hard not to think about what it was costing me), my first stop was Ciao! but unfortunately the site we know, love and trust for consumer opinions was experiencing trouble. It was no longer in English but German, so seeking advice was not possible.
Second stop, the Ciao UK e-group. Wallowing in large amounts of self pitty, I posted my despair for all to read. No ISP and no Ciao! What a bad day I was having. My mood was lightened slightly by quick responses from 2 members, both recommending NTL as a very reliable option to consider. Feeling a little better, I headed to their site and hastily completed the sign up process, but the news was not good. Connection to NTL could take a possible 3 months to happen. My heart sank.What now? Where would I find an ISP to tide me over (without bankruptcy), until NTL came good? Net4nowt seemed as good a place to try as any. For those unfamiliar with it, Net4nowt is a site that lists ISP's, and has a user comments section with each service, so you can see what real people think. (Similar principle to Ciao, except the comments are, on the whole, shorter and sometimes less than useless).
Browsing the 'access with subscription' section, I glanced at A.O.L., took a look at their site and signed up for the 50 hour free trial. Dispatch of the CD-R would be within a few days. That offer would suffice my needs for a while, although I still needed cheap access to prevent my body suffering net withdrawal symptoms in the meantime.Continuing my search I came across a familiar name, BT. I quite like BT and have always had good service from them in the form of both my home and mobile phone lines. So, I headed for the website, BTinternet. My immediate impression was not great. The site had a bit of a cluttered look to it, and the text was, I felt, a bit too small for comfortable reading. But, in the middle of the page I saw what I was looking for, a choice of services offered. SurfTime, Credit Card, and Pay-as you-go. (Also a 4th option, 'Anytime', unfortunately not up and running yet though).
I looked at the available options and the common factor in all the deals was a low call cost. Just 1p or 2p a minute depending on which package you choose. SurfTime and Credit Card had a subscription fee for which you gained some free call access time, but as primarily a day time net user, the cheap calls were the appealing factor for me. So, I opted for Pay-as you-go, the non-subscription service that simply offers cheap calls all the time. 2p a minute between 8am - 6pm on weekdays, and just 1p a minute the rest of the time.Happy that I could at least use this service to gain some relatively cheap net access while my quest for total ISP satisfaction continued, I clicked the link. A small software programme had to be downloaded, and this was done within a few minutes. I hastily disconnected from Freeserve and clicked the BT icon on my desktop. This set up my BTinternet dial-up, and produced another icon and some text to read. I just wanted to get going so I clicked my new icon and...nothing. Tried again and...nothing.
I decided perhaps I should have read the text afterall, so after digging it out from the recycle bin (I can't stand having a cluttered desktop), I read it. Realising that although I had downloaded the software, I hadn't actually signed up with BTinternet, and that was the problem. Annoyed that I hadn't been prompted to sign up, (despite the fact that common sense should have told me to do it) I headed back to the BTinternet site, courtesy of my Freeserve connection again. Signing up was easy and comprised of giving just a few details, taking just a couple of minutes.Time to try again. I disconnected Freeserve, clicked my BT icon and...nothing. Clicked again...more nothing. Once again I had to rifle through the depths of my recycle bin to find the text and re-read it. No clues there, so back to the recycle bin the text went, and this time I emptied it too. (Never will that doomed document blight my desktop again!).
Back to the BTinternet website I went, (no need to mention which connection I had to use again), on a mission to solve my problem and finally get my 2p per minute connection. I re-read the details of the Pay-as you-go package, and there, in very small print was the answer. If you have a permanent number withhold on your phone, this service will not work. I read on, in disbelief, but fortunately came across the instructions to overcome this hitch. I needed to pre-fix the dial-up number with a combination of numbers, commas, and speechmarks.Once this was done I would be able to use my new connection. Slightly miffed in the knowledge that through call charges it had already cost me a fortune to set up, I clicked again. With bated breath I listened for the magical bleeping to start, and....nothing? No, only joking, it worked!
I accessed all my regular haunts with ease and finally felt my quest for ISP satisfaction had made a small step in the right direction. I had a reasonably priced connection to use to continue my search for the ultimate ISP for me!There does not appear to be any cut-off time on this connection, but why would there be? When paying per minute you are no doubt welcome to frequent the service for as long as you wish, the longer the better as far as BTinternet is concerned. (More money for them of course). For the heavy internet user this may well, despite low call rates, prove costly. But for the light user, or for a fill in while hunting out a better deal, it's great.
The 'Anytime' service providing 24/7 free call access at £14:99 per month is due to start soon. You can sign-up, to get notification of when it actually becomes available, at the BTinternet site. I look forward to this for two reasons... No1, it should prove to be an economical service for net users, and No2, it will come under a different Ciao section so watch out for more ISP QUESTs* ~ * UPDATE * ~ *
Anytime was launched on the 26th Jan 2001. Full details at the site or see my review titled 'Is This Perfection - ISP QUEST III'
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