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Freeserve Unlimited, except not

Unless you "actively" use the Internet, yer off. But where does the activity stop and the abuse begin

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Image credit: Eurogamer

Freeserve's now infamous "Unlimited" package is, as far as we know at the time of press, no longer accepting sign-ups. The so-called 24/7 package was marketed using slogans like "use the Internet whenever you like, for however long you please", and all for a meagre £10 per month. As a previously satisfied customer, this writer can hardly complain; the service was certainly available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and although there was a two hour cut-off in place to try and make sure users could get on, this is common practice. All had seemed well with the service, but recently the company announced the termination of an undisclosed number of accounts, for "abuse" of the 24/7 service. This obviously set alarm bells ringing - how on earth do you abuse a connection of this ilk? Well, by using it, apparently. None of the users had been doing anything that contravened the Terms & Conditions agreement they had agreed to adhere to, their only crime was to use the service for "upward of 17 hours per day", which allegedly "put undue strain on the service" and affected the quality of other user's connections. This is of course rather farcical. The two hour turnover was in place to avoid people unduly affecting the quality of connection for other people, and I dare say it works. However nowhere in the Terms & Conditions agreement does it say that contracts may be terminated if users access the service for more than a certain amount of hours a day. This ludicrous indictment, that users had been somehow abusing the service simply by using it, remains to this day, and has aroused understandable anger from more or less all quarters. Today signals the start of a 21 day notice period given out by the service provider that it has updated its Terms & Conditions, which you can read here. It seems that the new terms draft includes all those gritty little clauses Freeserve would have wanted in place beforehand, except now its audience is captive. The company doesn't have to worry about potential sign-ups being disuaded by the new terms, as there will be no new sign-ups. The foremost additions come under the misuse of service clause, including the following:-

Of course, the document makes no reference to what the company regards as "active" use of the Internet, and this so-called "unreasonably excessive use of the free Internet service" is also rather ambiguous. For starters the service is not free, customers are expected to pay a monthly fee for their shackles, and furthermore, Freeserve are now claiming that they can and will terminate or suspend contracts if the service is not actively used when a connection is present. This on top of the fact that they reserve the right to disconnect you after ten minutes of inactivity, and the fact that they kick you off every two hours. So the question arises, just what are you supposed to do with Freeserve's "unlimited" service. At the moment it seems that if you use the service for more than a few hours every day, or leave files downloading while not at your desk, or stay connected when not at your PC, or do any one of a hundred things the average computer user expects to be able to do with an Internet service, then you are an abuser. And watch out, because as we've seen, Freeserve have no qualms about terminating contracts "at their discretion". The company's definition of "unlimited" is somewhat blurred as well. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it means without restrictions of boundaries. Perhaps someone ought to donate a copy so that users can get their Internet back. When contacted briefly yesterday afternoon, the company declined to comment.

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