Among other things, my webmaster cooperative is an agent for the Phone Co-op. Particularly with Free Software, cost-efficient ways of downloading data is a good companion service to have and the Phone Co-op has given a good ADSL and calls service to my own home and office for a few years now. When there are problems, they’ve worked pretty well to fix them. Just last week, I had a phone call to tell me when routing problems in LINX were fixed… which was a great help. I don’t remember an ISP doing that for me for years. I think the last one was my university’s dial-up service, 10 or more years ago.
Another unusual thing for a UK ISP is the excellent public position on the Phorm ad-snooper that I mentioned previously:
We strongly oppose these practices, especially the loss of privacy […] Phorm is not operating on our users’ lines and we have required and received assurances from our suppliers that this will remain the case.
Our Chief Executive Vivian Woodell gave an interview to the FT (accept the first two cookies, then block the rest, else you only get two paragraphs) which has a pretty good explanation of how the business side of the cooperative works. We’re recruiting for Line Rental (PSTN and ISDN) until the end of the year, including special offers like residential Unlimited Anytime Calls for £7.95 a month (normally £9.99) at the moment, as well as the great climate-neutral and ethical policies – if your landline contract renewal comes up, give it a look.
The Phone Co-op was ten years old in June, but there are still big challenges: I’d love to see a cooperative pay-as-you-go mobile phone service and the mobile contract offers still look a bit expensive to me (no bundled data on phones, £25 per month for a 3G data card). I’d also love to see support for some daring innovative solutions like customers owning their own tails (tails are the last link to their house, where most of the UK has a choice of one provider: BT), using that as a way to upgrade small towns and villages to fibre-optic, or offer resident-owned wifi.
Update: As if by magic, Ofcom has started a social web consultation about mobile phone services. Go comment.