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November 1, 1999

CallNet Blames BT for First Day Fiasco

By CBR Staff Writer

CallNet Ltd, the internet service provider that reckons it can offer subscription-free toll-free access to the internet 24 hours a day seven days a week, shocked nobody when demand outstripped supply during its launch yesterday and it was forced to close down registrations. But CallNet blamed British Telecommunications Plc for the fiasco, saying the telco had, despite warnings, failed to provide an adequate level of support for the toll-free registration number, and had instructed the small internet service provider to suspend registrations.

CallNet said a lack of capacity of the local BT exchange was responsible for it stopping prospective users registering by phone yesterday lunchtime, and it would open up the lines for business again once BT had upgraded its service, probably in the evening. A spokesperson insisted that all the thousands of successful registrants were surfing happily yesterday afternoon, although some of these people have claimed they have been told to wait two days for a confirmation letter before using the service.

Meanwhile, CallNet has asked people to register via email, which may present its own problems. The URL callnet.co.uk is owned by ClaraNet Ltd, a rival ISP which offers similar subscription-based free-calls services. A spokesperson for ClaraNet could not comment on whether it had received calls destined for CallNet. CallNet said it is investigating the domain issue, but would not say whether it was seeking legal advice. The domain name was registered in October 1997, some months before CallNet started business.

CallNet is backed on its CallNet0800 venture by Canadian telco North American Gateway Inc, which will absorb the expenses incurred by the toll-free dialup, which it hopes to subsidize with revenues from national and international calls made by ISP customers who choose to use its network for voice telephony.

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