Internet

ISPs

Information Service Providers (ISPs)

An ISP is someone who will happily connect your computer to the Internet, and then bill you (or someone else wanting to deliver advertising to internet users such as yourself) for the privilege.

ISPs in Australia

ISPs have quickly emerged as one of the newest worldwide industries spurred on by the shear number of people wanting to access (or "surf") the whole new world of electronic information. In Australia, the total revenue for the ISP industry in 1996 was said to be around $100 million. (1)

According to survey figures released in October 1996 by www.consult, the number of ISPs in Australia reached 308, up from 231 in May 1996. The industry employs nearly 2000 people with nearly 70 percent of them working on a full-time basis. (2)

UPDATE

As of 2001, the bigger ISPs are slowly gobbling up smaller ISPs to reduce competition in the Australia market.

Do I need ISPs to have internet access?

Of course not, silly! The purpose of the internet is to communicate ideas and products to people. Believe it or not, all this can be achieved without an ISP simply by meeting someone in person and talking.

One of the reasons why the internet was invented is so that people can communicate by sending and receiving pictures, videos, written text and not just sounds from people talking. If this is the reason for having internet access, a local telephone call, a modem, your own computer, and the telephone number of the person having the same equipment is usually enough.

For long distance telephone calls, high quality VoIP and a modem might be an alternative to communicating direct with someone you know with your computer. But you will need an ISP to supply the VoIP service.

Even if you use the standard telephone to communicate with someone, you will still need a middle person to provide the service. In this case the telecommunications company.

Or cheaper still, you don't need to own a computer, telephone and modem. Just go to your local library and use their Internet facilities. Many Internet users tend to forget this!

But if you haven't got the foggiest idea who is out there and what is being communicated which could turn out to be of some benefit to you and you need to see pictures and videos, and need solid text you can read and keep a copy; or you don't know who might be interested in what you have to say using your own pictures, videos, text and sounds, you should consider joining an ISP specifically dedicated to internet access in your local area. The cost in joining is no more than the price of a local telephone call and a special yearly, monthly and/or hourly access rate. However, the total cost is still much less than is possible by dialling direct on a non-VoIP national or international phone number.

How much does it cost to join an ISP?

Due to the unregulated nature of the industry, the cost of joining an ISP varies considerably from place to place, with different ISP groups, and at different times of the day or night. And as more and more people get on the internet, intense competition from different ISPs in your local area can see the price for internet access come down considerably.

For example, an ISP located in a metropolitan area will almost certainly charge different (usually higher for high quality and superfast Internet connection, and lower for basic Internet connection) access rates than a similar ISP located in a rural area. Also access rates are charged the highest during peak times, which is normally between 6.00pm and midnight (other ISPs may describe the peak hours as between 7.00am and midnight).

Hourly access rates can vary anywhere from $0.50 per hour for basic email access to $10.00 per hour for full email and Internet access using high-speed connections (average cost is around $5 per hour), not to mention the cost of a local telephone call (which is fixed to around $0.30 for unlimited time using standard phones). With competition, ISPs may now offer $10.00 per month unlimited access for 56K dial-up plans.

Most users are online on average about 15 hours per month. So an hourly access rate plan may cost as much as $150 per month. That is why you will find many ISPs providing special monthly and yearly rates to help further reduce the overall costs, especially for hard-core users.

If you intend to be a moderate to heavy user (e.g. students and IT professionals), go for the ISP plan that provides 'unlimited time' access. Also some ISPs may occasionally cut you off during busy times, forcing you to restart the session. If this is happening to you right now, it is time to find anno.,th,,r...,,

....@!!&.#!..

In addition to this, check to make sure the plan has no additional charges on such things as the amount of data you can download or transfer (this includes the information for downloading web pages and not just free software and music, as well as uploading stuff to your web site!). If you do have to pay an additional charge for the amount you download or upload, try to find an ISP that can provide you with the most data transfer possible for the price. Around 250MB for 56K dial-up plans and 750MB for broadband access plans should be fine before ISPs begin to charge extra for excess data transfer amounts.

If you choose off-peak rates, the cost can be quite reasonable (perhaps only $1.00 per hour for full email and Internet access). For other ISPs, the amount of data you can download and upload might be unlimited. But always check with your local ISP to get the full price details. For a list of all commercial ISPs in your local region, look in the local telephone directory.

If you are required to pay a one-off or yearly registration/connection/setup fee to your local ISP (prior to 2003), expect it to range anywhere between $0 and $200. Also, be careful that you don't sign up to a contract that forces you to pay for more than a month's worth of Internet access upfront as this better protects you from the situation where some dubious (i.e. small and greedy) ISPs may suddenly decide to close business and run off to a tropical island with most of your hard-earned money!

As we speak (as of April 2005), setup fees for broadband access have reached a rock-bottom price of $0. For 56K dial-up plans, it is extremely rare to find ISPs charging you a setup fee — you would simply join and pay your monthly access fee.

And finally, as a general rule of thumb, the more you pay to an ISP the better the service, including high bandwidth and in-house assistance in designing personal or commercial Web pages.

The only exception to this rule is if you can find an ISP who actually enjoys what they are doing, have the extensive experience in the field, and are not too profit-motivated. In which case, the cost for good quality service should be minimal. However, finding such people are hard to come by these days.

Is it easy to join a local ISP for Internet access?

It is extremely easy to get connected to the Internet with the help of your local ISPs. All you need to do is check the yellow pages of the telephone directory and look for Information Service Providers, or ISPs for short. Give them a call. They certainly won't bite! And they will send you a price list and an easy installation CD which lets you set up your account with the ISP and configure your computer's network software for immediate Internet access.

Alternatively, visit your local newsagent and purchase a PC magazine with an installation CD on the cover or hidden in one of the pages as part of some ISPs' aims of attracting people to the Internet craze.

Do I have to pay for full Internet access?

No, you don't have to. As we speak, there are ISPs providing a range of services that permit you to not only access the Internet for free, but also to setup your own free web page and email account for life (well, while the free ISPs are still around, can make money through some other means such as online advertising, and can keep operating costs down!). (3)

Where did the concept of free ISPs begin?

The move from the "pay-to-use service" ISPs to free ISPs began in September 1998 when a UK company called Freeserve, with enough money to take risks, suddenly decided to dish out some deliciously free Internet access to the public. While many critics at the time argued it would not last for long and soon everyone had to pay, it turned out they were wrong. Now, Freeserve has become the biggest ISP in the UK with Internet accounts established for over 1.8 million people as of January 2001. And many other companies in the US and Asia are emulating the success of their UK counterpart.

How do these free ISPs make a profit?

In some cases there is no profit but just a standard government service funded by taxpayers (in the case of local governments offering free Internet access at your local public libraries).

However, those private companies that do offer free services can, and do, make a profit through the advertisements they place online or elsewhere, through the standard telephone bills you pay, the premium rates you pay for technical support, or the monthly rates for extra fancy services you may want to add to your basic Internet service like a bigger web site capacity, extra download quotas, or whatever.

For example, some telephone companies offer free Internet access as an incentive for their customers to pay their telephone bills on time (e.g. in the UK). For other businesses, it is the advertisements they put on their own and/or your web sites for other businesses willing to pay for the advertising which help them give you that free service.

In the case of Yahoo.com supplying a free email account and web site, the cost is covered by internet advertising.

What are these advertisements on web sites all about?

If you choose the latter option for setting up your web site, usually the advertisements are small and appear as either a new window that pops up (4) every time you click on a new web page (e.g. if you set up a web page at http://www.geocities.com/), or embedded at the top of your pages (if you set up a web page at http://www.homepage.com/ and considered the less popular). Unfortunately this is the price you will have to pay for Internet-free web hosting and other services. Otherwise, the alternative is to pay an ISP to host your web pages and give you an email account free of all advertisements.

Despite this, the world of free ISPs and free Internet services is popular and moving at a frantic pace. An example of a successful business offering free Internet services is CallNet. According to an article entitled, Internet costs plummet: All aboard the unmetered access train!, published on page 10 of the May 2000 edition of .net, a popular UK magazine for Internet users:

"CallNet...has been offering free Net access since November 1999....The company has just released its latest figures, claiming it has over 250,000 accounts. "It is interesting to note that several other organisations are now seeking to emulate our success," said CallNet's Paul Goodman-Simpson...."

The most successful free ISPs are those that can easily attract customers to join and have a fast and reliable Internet connection. It also helps if the free ISP is not motivated by high profits as well.

Do free ISPs really provide free services?

Yes, quite a few do. But those that don't try to hide this fact through cunning marketing techniques such as a slight increase in the cost of your telephone bills. Or others may be more open and say the free service will come with some advertising. Fortunately, there are a number of ISPs who are providing absolutely "free" services in the strictest sense of the word.

If there is a free ISP in your local area and would like to join, then please do. There is no reason why you have to pay $20 per month for Internet access, web site hosting and your own email account.

Not sure which free ISP to turn to? We recommend a simple subscription-free ISP where you only pay for the cost of a local telephone call.

For how long will free ISPs continue to be free?

That will depend on the size of the free ISPs and how creative they can be when it comes to finding ways of generating revenue. For example, if operating costs are high and there are lots of people with big salaries to pay for, we can expect the large free ISP to be forced very quickly into a "pay-as-you-use" service to help cover the costs. But if the free ISP is small and all equipment fully paid for (i.e. not leased and with an independent power supply generated on site), the free Internet services should last a very long time.

In theory, ISPs should be able to provide a core range of free services indefinitely so long as they are able to sell a range of fancier services to people who can afford it.

This appears to be the case with one free ISP known as Geocities.com (owned by Yahoo.com) as of 2001 who were starting to feel the financial pinch. Its shear size has made it necessary to introduce a range of fancier and more complicated means of raising revenue. With a bit of luck, hopefully this will maintain the core range of free services and all its current staff numbers and salary levels.

UPDATE
July 2003

Yahoo.com has simplified its business structure and has decided to concentrate on well-targeted search engine advertising (search engines are the places where most people congregate to find online information) to raise its revenue and so continue to maintain its free mail and web hosting services to the online masses.

What can free ISPs do to keep themselves free?

If life is getting a little tough for some ISPs because things like Internet advertising revenue is not as popular as before (try targeted search engine advertising instead where the advertising matches the search criteria of people using them!), maybe the free ISPs should consider the next step in making money - namely to select high quality and popular web sites and then provide the owners with free tools to help them sell their information. For example, why not introduce a "web pages to e-book" converter service and then send the e-book to a place where the ISP can promote and sell it on behalf of the publisher. In that way, the ISP can take out a small slice of the profits and give the rest to the publisher.

And don't just stop there. Why not let publishers introduce subscription-based web sites, or even be permitted to have an online credit card processing facility arranged by the ISP with no setup and monthly costs (except for a per transaction cost) for businesses with quality "in-the-hand" products to sell? In that way, the ISPs can make a profit on a percentage of the transactions made by the publishers and other businesses. And hopefully this will be enough to continue supporting free core services and pay for all the business costs.

The infrastructure for this type of money-making venture should be there and it shouldn't cost that much to set it up and maintain it. We have already gone through the stage of attracting people on the Internet. Now all we have to do is start selling quality information/products to the people who are already online.

This "getting involved with people's own information" and in helping them to "sell quality information to the masses" could be the next step to making a reasonable profit for the free ISPs.

Where can I find some other good free ISPs?

The list of sites offering free web hosting is growing rapidly, so don't be too surprised if you find a service that is absolutely free-of-charge (i.e. no advertisements placed on your web site).

Some of the better known free ISPs are shown below:

Geocities
http://geocities.yahoo.com/

50Megs
http://50megs.com/

Angelfire Communications
http://angelfire.lycos.com/

Lycos free 50MB web space (with adverts)
http://lycos.tripod.com/

Freeserve 12MB web space
http://www.Freeservers.com/

Or if you are ready to tackle the e-commerce revolution, you can set up a free business web site and, if you choose to do so, pay a small monthly $US24.95 to include an e-merchant credit card facility to go with your web site. If this is for you, try:

BigStep.com http://www.bigstep.com/

For more information about free Web-hosting and other services and a list of other businesses offering these kinds of services, check out:

Freehostingweb.com
http://www.freehostingweb.com/

Free Webpage list
http://Freeweblist.freeservers.com/

FreeWebspace.Net
http://www.freewebspace.com/

Dabsol (Unlimited free web space and unlimited free email accounts for UK users only)
http://www.dabsol.co.uk/

4TheNet (Unlimited free web space and unlimited free email accounts)
http://www.4thenet.co.uk/

And for other general freebies, check out the following web sites:

YouSendIt

Freely send large files (up to 1GB) to people with your email address and a meesage. The service scans the files you upload, sends an email with a hyperlink to the recipients showing them where they can download the files, and it costs absolutely nothing to you or your recipients.

You Send It
http://www.yousendit.com/

Cool Freebie Links
http://www.coolfreebielinks.com/cfl/freebees.htm

Free UK Stuff
http://www.freeukstuff.com/

Free.com
http://www.free.com/

Freebieland
http://www.freebieland.net/

Freebie Spider
http://www.freebiespider.com/

The Free Zone
http://www.thefreezone.co.uk/

The Freebie Site
http://www.freebiesite.co.uk/

Where can I find free web-based email?

http://mail.yahoo.com/
Free 1GB storage, 6MB attachment size limit, comes with calendar, organiser and reminder services.

http://gmail.google.com/
Free 2GB plus storage, 10MB attachment size limit. Doesn't support IMAP.

http://www.fastmail.fm/
A Melbourne-based service providing free 10MB storage, 10MB attachment size limit, and 40MB bandwidth limit per month.

http://www.hotmail.com/
Free 250MB storage, 6MB attachment size. Unused accounts could face deletion after 30 days.

Can I upload information without creating a web page?

We assume by information you mean a software title and you just want space on a web server to hold the title and allow others to download it. The answer is "Yes".

Here is a list of some acceptable free software upload sites for you to choose from:

http://upload.simtel.net/
You cannot be anonymous with this one.

http://author.tucows.com/
Not a proper upload site. You must have uploaded your software elsewhere before specifying the download address at tucows.

http://uploads.winsite.com/
This one is okay for uploading software. Popular enough. There may be network problems during upload.

http://www.download.net/
Okay if you have alreaded uploaded your software at another location. This one merely helps you to advertise the software. But at least it is free.

http://www.sharewarejunkies.com/
Old and well-established. This one is designed more to advertise and give reviews of software.

http://www.keystone-software.com/
It looks easy enough to upload and specify the download address for your software. Only problem is that it is a fairly obscure location from the US. Sending a letter to the owner asking for permission to upload your software fails to initiate a response. Use at your own risk.

http://www.1.smartsite.com/download/
Easy advertising of software download link. But no software submit.

http://www.amug.org/amug/store/author.html
Also known as the Arizona Macintosh Users Group, this web site will accept anonymous uploads and help with distribution of the software for free. You'll just need to send a permission letter first before uploading according to the web site blurb. However, sending a letter apparently does not guarantee a response from AMUG. Perhaps they are too busy. Again use at your own risk.

http://www.softwareseeker.com/
This is just to submit a link to the file you want downloaded.

http://my.skali.com/
Can make software submissions. Appears to be a proper software upload site. Must get approval that filename is unique before uploading. You are able to provide good information about your software to users. Maximum file size restricted to 20MB. Choice of uploading file or specifying the download link address. Very easy to get an account activated.

http://download.cnet.com/
The No.1 software download site and most popular. However software developers can only submit the address for software uploaded to another web site. Notifying versiontracker.com of software updates is easy and quick. Software titles appear on versiontracker.com web site for two days for no cost. You'll have to pay to keep the software titles on the front page for a longer period of time (or constantly claim you have updated your software!).

Paying to set up a web page with ISPs

Still game enough to pay an ISP or set up the equipment on your own for web hosting? Well, let us see how much it costs.

Setting up a web page can be an extremely low cost affair (if you choose the free ISPs), or a very expensive proposition. Much of this depends on who develops and maintains the web page, and where you set it up.

Doing it yourself and sticking with one of the free ISPs is by far the cheapest (unless you decide to become your own ISP). For virtually no cost at all, online manuals on HTML programming can teach you all you need to know about how to create a good Web page using a simple text editor. Or, for slightly more money, you can buy a specialised Web page designing software that does all the work of writing the HTML codes for you without requiring the user to know anything about HTML. The choice is yours.

Once the Web page is created, you can ask your ISP to put it on the Internet for a nominal fee. Or it can cost you nothing if you set up a web site with a free ISP and do all the work of uploading your web pages yourself.

Or if you want to really go at it alone and be an ISP, be prepared to pay an additional cost beyond buying a computer to host your web pages. You will need about $2000 to lease perhaps half a dozen standard telephone lines to connect to your home (or one very fast broadband line) and modems for each line to allow a reasonable number of clients to access your Web page almost simultaneously with the help of a modem switching/sharing device called a router and server software. The server software is usually freely obtained off the Internet unless you require special commercial software with built-in Web site management features.

The reason why major commercial ISPs like the Australian company called Access One may spend $70,000 or more is so that they can afford to buy or lease a greater number of high-speed fibre-optic telephone lines to handle much higher volumes of clients accessing the Internet.

Cost of setting up a web site in Australia is expensive

Interestingly, the cost of setting up a Web site (especially for commercial use with no outside advertising imposed on the site from the ISP or other businesses) with a local ISP is still much higher in Australia than it is in the USA and other countries. For example, in Australia as of December 2000 it can cost between $200 and $2000 to setup a virtual Web site and between $100 and $400 per month to maintain the site, including several email accounts and enough decent disk space (at least 50MB). In the USA, the same Web site would cost about $US175 for setup, and running costs are under US$40 per month.

"Australian businesses are crying out for compehensive Internet services," says WebMaster editor Mr Geoffrey Ebbs.

"In the US this is provided to very large corporates by large companies such as IBM. Small and medium business buy it from a network of companies that each provide part of the puzzle. The end result is a boom in extremely cheap Internet services.

"Australian companies attempting to offer one piece of the puzzle are constantly frustrated by predatory suppliers. The end result is very expensive Internet services. Until the local Internet community wakes up to this, business will remain disappointed in the value for money it gets from its Internet sites." (5)

Setting up a commercial web site within Australia is getting cheaper

The price of setting up an Australian business web site with online merchant facilities, domain name registration, Secure Socket Layer (SSL) and so on is getting cheaper as of December 2001. For example, AVS Networks now offers a complete range of web site services to small and large businesses within Australia. You can choose between the Standard or the Premium web hosting package.

The Standard web hosting package at AVS Networks consists of a monthly rate of A$29 with no setup costs. For this price, you'll get 50MB storage space, your own domain name, 100 email accounts, your own cgi-bin, web site statistics, FrontPage 2002, and reliable backup of your web site on RAID 5 equipment.

The Premium web hosting package has all of the Standard features plus Secure Socket Layer (SSL) for secure transmission of electronic information, a Shopping Cart Program, 350MB storage space, 200 email accounts, and Chilisoft ASP. Again, there are no setup fees. But you will have to pay A$45 per month for this service. All prices include GST for Australian users.

And the beauty is that you can activate your account in roughly 5 minutes at AVS Network's online order form.

All these plans are based on the assumption that bandwidth is unlimited. However, other plans may allow unlimited space on a web hosting server but be restricted in bandwidth. So look around at what you need.

What should I be able to get today for good commercial web hosting?

When you sign up with an ISP to host your commercial web site, you should be able to get the following services as part of a complete package:


UNLIMITED BANDWIDTH PLANS

  • Web space restricted to around 70MB for holding your web site (for personal use, you should be able to get 15MB; and at least 200MB if you want customers to download your own software titles online).
  • Have a domain name in the form http://www.yourdomain.com/.
  • One or more POP3 email accounts.
  • 128bit or more secure server for performing your own e-commerce "credit card processing" activity.
  • Personal "cgi bin" for things like processing electronic orders from customers and other fancy automated features.
  • My SQL database for storing and retrieving new contacts details from customers who place orders on your web site.
  • Full ftp access (this allows you to use special software utilities to quickly upload and download files on your web site) or ask for HTTP access to help you do the same thing using your Internet browser.
  • Good network reliability even at peak times when uploading/downloading information on your web site as well as general access to other Internet sites.
  • 30-day money-back guarantee if the web hosting service is not to your liking for whatever reason.


LIMITED BANDWIDTH PLANS

  • Usually unlimited web space on the ISP's server.
  • Virtually everything else that an unlimited bandwidth plan will provide.

For a good Australian web hosting service with unlimited bandwidth, try Server101.com by contacting (07) 3876 6101. These people will provide the above package from A$14.95 per month.

What's the latest in good commercial web hosting?

Web hosting in Australia is slowly getting cheaper as we speak, especially among the smaller ISPs vying for an opportunity to make a profit in this cut-throat industry. As of December 2003, you can expect to find the best unlimited and limited bandwidth deals for commercial (or personal) web hosting at the following locations:


Hosting Bay

What do I get? For A$40 per year, you will get everything including CGI, PHP, POP email, My SQL etc. The web space is generous.

Where? http://www.hostingbay.com.au/>


Smarty Host

What do I get? Check out the latest deals!

http://www.smartyhost.com.au/


Unlimited-space

For A$47 per year, you will get unlimited space to hold your web site. Bandwidth will be restricted to 1GB per month. For extreme hosting, you can try the A$99 per year plan which gives you 5GB bandwidth per month. Negotiate with the ISP if you need more bandwidth.

http://www.unlimited-space.com/