In the following set of points, we raise the aspect of some points to remember to check BEFORE you sign on the dotted line. Whilst these points will ct as a guideline, it cannot be said that they are guaranteed to prevent all problems that might occur with your ISP, but it is hoped that they will prevent most potential problems.
For example: A special buy of 40 hours for $25.00 looks great (62.5 cents an hour) but if it must be used in a calendar month and you only use two (2) hours, then the actual cost become $12.50 an hour (too expensive).
As a warning, some companies keep such restrictions in the fine print. It is not illegal so it is up to you to read all the conditions and fine print BEFORE you sign up.
LOCATIONAL ACCESS: You need to consider whether or not your usage of the Internet will be just at home or whether you will want access from many different locations.
If the access is home only, then any Internet Service Provider that is operating in your town or area, that will give you local call access, is to be deemed a potential supplier for you.
On the other hand, if you will want access from many different locations, select only those that will give you the local call access from the locations you will be needing. There is nothing worse than the cheapest rate that requires STD calls to get that rate - you defeat the purpose.
TIME OF DAY ACCESS: Here is the area that price can make a big difference. Some companies provide different rates for different times of the day. It is like off peak rates with electricity, at lower volume times, the rates become cheaper. However, the cheapest rate is not much good to you if it is at the wrong time of day.
For example, a company a couple of years ago, advertised special bargain rates of just 50 cents an hour. The trouble was, you had to use those hours between midnight and 5am and if you went beyond that timespan you were charged at $12.00 an hour.
Unfortunately, there is no concrete way of knowing this, so take as much care as you possibly can when signing up with small operators. This is rather sad for rural Australia as many such companies gave us the only Internet Access at local call rates for quite some time, yet the shake up may force such people out of business. One thing you can do is check the background of the company or person who is running the service.
I recently read of a case where the operator went overseas for an extended stay, not thinking about his conditions. When he returned, he discovered he had a bill for the six months he had been away - not a nice way to conclude a great holiday.
I am predicting that it won't be that long before the "free" web page aspect actually disappears from Internet Service Providers as they seek to reduce their access charges to remain competitive. The "free" web site will be amongst the first to go, so it is something to keep in mind.
R. J. (Bob) Burling