Small businesses and teleworkers
There are two groups of users who have rearranged their lives around unmetered local calls: small businesses and teleworkers.

If you run a small business based around unmetered local calls please fill in the Small Business Survey; the results are shown here.

Small businesses
One extraordinary fact, which I would never have guessed when starting this site, is the number of people who have set up small businesses based on unmetered local calls. If you count up the hours there are 108 hours every week when Videotron-Videotron calls are unmetered. This is quite enough to run a business provided that you are prepared to work odd hours: my Web designer is only one of many people who have turned their lives upside down.

And what would happen if the unmetered local calls were removed ... ?

Small Business Survey results
Survey begun 4 February 1998; last updated 6 December 1998; 16 results shown

Name Business name Effect of removing unmetered calls Comments
Nick Mailer Koeksuster Publications 3 I run a small publishing company 'on the side'. A group of us are currently working on several projects. We conference through the night and weekends on collaborations. If my friends and I lost unmetered local calls, our freedom to do so would be curtailed. Perhaps severely.
Richard Smith RS Communications 2 Most of my business actually comes via the Internet. Without unmetered calls, I wouldn't be able to use the Usenet groups through which I find possible customers (at least, not as extensively), wouldn't be able to monitor competitors' websites (at least, not as often) and wouldn't be able to have a comprehensive site that is being planned, since I would have to pay every time I upload.
Martin Eager Runic Design 4 I run a Web design business and consequently I eat up large amounts of online time in order to install and check sites, register sites with search engines (often very time consuming), research the ever-changing developments in the Web marketplace and generally keep up with Web events etc. I also conference a lot with clients and other Web developers online.
As a result, I have come to rely heavily on free local calls and have totally altered my lifestyle so I can work during the off-peak hours when free local calls are available. If free calls are withdrawn I will have to massively restrict my online time and as such it is inevitable that my business will suffer in a major way.
I expect I'll muddle through somehow, but since my business is still at the early 'fledgling' stage, loss of free local calls poses a serious threat to the survival chances of my business. Indeed, I doubt I would have taken the plunge and started my own business if free local calls hadn't been available from Videotron - the costs would have been too huge given the online time required.
So, having taken the plunge I'm very worried and concerned by the threat to free local calls.
Lord M Spencer Cheap Household Removals 2 This will affect my business a bit as I have a few adverts on the net with an email form for people to fill out to receive a moving quote. It will therefore cost me more to receive these emails and any potential advertising I do. I am also a director of Datasouth Design, a web-based, advertising company which it will affect dramatically, we may even give it up as costs to transfer data and advertise our services would soar. C+W don't seem to care too much about small internet related business.
Iain Begg Vantage Software 3 To date, sales, marketing and customer support are only via the Internet. In a couple of months or so, I hope to extend publicity and therefore the market.
Chris Topley Video Select 3 I run a franchise and the main way all the franchisees communicate with each other and the franchisor is through email and message boards on the company's www site. To have to pay more for this will cut already marginal profits.
Chris Joseph Cambridge Web Design 3 Unmetered calls were crucial to the early stages of setting up the company, and are still very important for day to day operations.
Ken Kini Farepoint 4 All local calls should be free. I agree with all that you say about metered calls.
R Pindoria LBS 4 I run a web and graphics design service over the Internet. Like many others I've had to alter my lifestyle so I can work during unmetered times. The hours online are long and necessary - and metering would have a dramatic negative effect on productivity.

The unmetered calls were what attracted me to Videotron in the first place. The difference in telephone call rates between BT and CWC is not big enough - even under any special package - for it to make a difference to me who I choose as my provider when it comes to just using the telephone for regular talking.

Unmetered calls however, are a major attraction when it comes to the Internet - this is a medium which needs to be made accessible to everyone, not nipped in the bud before people in the UK have had a chance to experience it properly. Without unmetered calls, my business would suffer and a wealth of knowledge out there on the WWW would not be accessible to those of us who don't have free use of the Internet through school or through their place of work ...

I am obviously concerned about the effects metering would have on me, but I really don't believe that metering is the way to price connection to the Internet.

It's not very visionary to go down that road.
Marc Anderson Superscript (Thamesmead) Limited 5 We run a small non-profit local news service for southeast London and require access to the Net for wire services and other information. To keep our costs low, we use our unmetered calls to work from remote sites, which means we do not need an office. If the calls go, so do we.
Paul Goode Evolving Technology Limited 3 Needed for bulk downloads from Novell, Microsoft etc...
Warwick Newson Asgard International 3 The only reason I signed with Videotron was the free call status. With BT's recent price cuts I would have to re-evaluate the pricing structures, adding in the 'disgruntled' factor, and probably move to an alternative supplier.
Jonathan Butler Vort-X Limited 4 Metered local calls will mean a severe uprising of expenditure, which is enough as it is already.
Robert Airton Get Connected 3 I would leave C&W the minute they drop calls. They are dreadful. After a planned move I have been without a phone for 12 days. When someone bothered it took 1 minute to fix.
Jeremy Zeid Topcom Computers Limited 3 It will make a big impact on our interrogating various manufacturers' and suppliers' sites for information, service, specs etc.
Alan Jackson CIntraNet 5 I have over 300 customers who get great pleasure from using the Internet. Taking the 'free' calls from them would have a great effect not only on their pleasure, but I would be in great danger of losing my business and family income. Several customers have complained to me already about CWC dirty tricks to change their contracts."

Effect ranges from 0 (none) to 5 (catastrophic).

I know of only a couple of teleworkers who use unmetered local calls - although I would be delighted to hear of anyone else - but I have a personal interest in this issue.

I travel about 130 miles to and from work every day. This is by train, but it is a terrible waste of time, resources and money. I would like to work from home but cannot because of a classic chicken-and-egg situation:
  • My company would install the hardware and software to enable teleworking if there were enough people willing to do so;
  • Because of the cost of calls people are not prepared to dial in;
  • Therefore the hardware and software are not installed;
  • So teleworking is not possible.
There are also other problems, such as the telephone modem being terribly slow, but paying 3¾p per minute at peak times is the real killer.
Text by Alastair Scott

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