In terms of numbers of subscriber
s, the largest ISP
in Britain. To explain the Freeserve phenomenon a brief history lesson is required.
Unlike in the United States, local telephone calls in Britain (and indeed across Europe) have never been free. This means that when you access your Internet Provider you are paying by the minute for your time online. In addition most ISPs also charged a monthly fee (usually around £10 per month).
What most people outside of the telecomms industry didn't realise was that although the ISP received the subscription fee from all their customers, their telecomms carrier company received what is termed an interconnect fee. This is a percentage of the charge billed to the subscriber which gets transferred to whichever telcos transmit the call. Sounds complicated? An example might help:
I dial-up to my ISP using my telephone company's network. For this I get billed a penny a minute by my telco. My ISP is connected to the telephone network by a different telco. When my call gets transferred between the two different telcos, some of the penny per minute I pay goes to the telco my ISP uses.
Freeserve (or rather their parent company, Dixons) had a revolutionary idea back in mid-1998. If they were to set up an ISP which also owned the telco then they wouldn't need to charge a monthly fee yet could still turn a profit.
When they launched their service in September 1998, Freeserve turned the British ISP market upside-down. Customers flocked to cancel their existing paid-for accounts, and many hundreds of thousands of people who hadn't previously gone online for fear of the cost took up Freeserve accounts, despite the fact that the service wasn't really free (you were still charged for the price of the phone call).
Freeserve lives at www.freeserve.net
This was a nodeshell, but I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the NRT