No-frills NBN provider aims for the tech savvy

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No-frills NBN provider aims for the tech savvy
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Cap trading

Like most current residential plans, those on a No ISP-delivered NBN plan will be capped to a slower speed once they reach their download quota; the group currently plans to shape to 1 Mbps download speeds.

Unlike most internet service providers however, No ISP will allow users to 'trade' excess download quota within the group in exchange for discounts off their monthly bill.

No ISP will facilitate the trades but allow for a market-based price depending on supply and demand, which Stevens said he expects to ebb and flow over the course of a month.

"Pretty soon we'll see a small but useful inter-member trading scheme set up such as they will be able to do that trading process," he said.

"It's a zero-sum game for us — we're still paying the total to the wholesale but within the members group they can trade and get what they want."

Stevens contrasted No ISP to standard telco practices, which he said offered a terabyte cap to customers but realistically bought a smaller amount of quota per user from their wholesale provider in an expectation that most users would not reach their cap.

A similar tactic has been used by internet service providers offering unlimited download quotas, pricing the offerings cheaply and expecting small-time users to outweigh heavy downloaders.

"We will be buying a terabyte [per user-based terabyte plan], so we would actually like to see it shared and consumed," Stevens said.

"From the point of view of game and trading theory, watching what happens with that market will be quite an interesting lesson and I hope it does enable us to track how people are actually using it, and becomes a way for people to be able to maximise the benefit out of the service."

Community support

Support, too, will be minimal at No ISP. The organisation will employ no real support staff and provide no telephone number.

Any faults are expected to be lodged through a web interface, most of which will then be shuffled to the sub-wholesaler for allocation or fixing.

Stevens said he saw "no benefit" in providing traditional telephone support in an NBN world — largely because an NBN or power outage will also take out landline phones, while phone queues on mobiles quickly become an expensive exercise.

But members can opt in for a second level of support for the applications and hardware hanging off their NBN connection. This, Stevens said, would be provided at an extra cost by other members providing community support.

"A number of the people we've been talking to say they feel comfortable to help out their friends in the street, who always come to them when they try to set something up and it hasn't been able to work, Telstra hasn't been able to help them," he said.

"It may not be commercially exciting but certainly for some of the guys we've been talking to saying, 'I'd like to go up and down the main street and say, if you want help with your internet I can help you, I'll charge you an extra $10 a month and here's my mobile phone number.'

"That was one of the first questions posed to me as No ISP — are we going to be upset if people want to resell No ISP membership? If there's some internal membership between the members, we don't mind, and we went from not minding to wanting to facilitate that."

Stevens said one purpose of No ISP was to create a "collegiate structure" on which members could feed off each for ongoing support, new product ideas and influence in the technology provided by the ISP.

"I guess the focus is we're trying to be as transparent as possible, and at the end of the day any member is able to contribute and if they don't feel they don't like what's going on, they should be able to stand up and say 'hey, it's not going the way I'd like it to go'," he said.

Head to the next page as we explore whether new internet service providers and business models are viable in a post-NBN world.

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