PAUL EVANS gets concerned at the cost of living

TWO DAYS after writing last month’s article, a press release from Prestel arrives confirming the rumour! Yep, ’netting’s going to get more expensive. The charges are to be as follows...

Peak Rate (8am–6pm weekdays) 7p per minute, a rise of 1p
Standard Rate (all other times) 1p, previously free
Quarterly subscription £20, previously £16.50
Charges apply from July 1st

Crying yet? Thought so! I, among many others, am not just unhappy about the new charges, but also very annoyed about the way Prestel has implemented them. However, Micronet has done its best to cushion the blow. It seems that this new charge has become wound up in a web of intrigue...


It seems that Prestel is turning into a regular MI5 system! The first thing that happened was a substantial rebellion against the charges. I expected this, but not what followed. Within days petitions had started. Micro-mags on Prestel and columnists like myself were ‘junked’ (a word meaning, to be sent many mailboxes) with letters about the charges. Then the unusual events started...

The fact was pointed out to me that apparently Prestel had breached their contract with the users, by giving less than thirty days notice of the charges. Not fair, said I, so I decided to arrange two meetings — one on Lip-Sinc (a Spectrum chatline) and another on TeleTalk. So I continued to advertise Lip-Sinc heavily all over Micronet, but not much on Prestel. The day came and I logged-on happily to Lip-Sinc. I tried to send a message, ‘There’s something wrong with that page’, came the reply. I tried another chatline, same thing happened. I was allowed to watch the chatting going on but not allowed to participate. Now isn’t it unusual that the chatline message system should malfunction on my account and leave everybody else chatting happily. Very weird, especially on the day of the meeting. I complained to Prestel, asking what was happening. I got back a letter saying that Keats (the Prestel computer I was using) had temporarily experienced problems with the chatline system. Strange that Dickens did not go whacko too, as the computers are closely linked. I was barred from every chatline!

All these events are very unusual and have never been experienced by me or, to my knowledge, anyone else during my two year spell on Micronet. Have you experienced any trouble? If so, write to (or mailbox) me.


So I phoned the men at the top, Prestel. I asked how they justified the new charges. A spokesperson replied that no increase has been made to the service for the last three years and over that time the retail price index has risen 13%. Also, Prestel has been completely re-fitted with new technology, so there was bound to be an increase. Prestel think this is a fair increase. They have a point!

Dave Rosenbaum: don’t worry we’ll look after you

John Tomany: the man at the top of Micronet, looking after you and me

Cheery old David Rosenbaum spoke on behalf of Micronet, giving much the same reply. But much more to my interest are the actions Micronet is taking to combat the charges and keep hold of customers. Firstly, Shades and TeleTalk are not affected by the time charges because they are both gateway systems that operate outside of the Prestel system. Secondly, Micronet and Prestel have agreed to stop the time charge between midnight and 8am — a large amount of people use Micronet during the night shift, so that will help. Lastly, Micronet are THINKING of introducing a higher ‘time charge-free’ subscription — benefiting all-day users.

Now to my mailbox. When I got on there I was swamped by angry netters all lodging complaints about the charges. Nig has even started a petition — with much support. Many others have given comments that will give cause for alarm...

Mark Corcoran: ‘How stupid it is of Prestel.’

Gobaz: ‘it will kill Micronet. People are definitely going, it will be the death of Prestel.’

R P Bishop: ‘Please put something in CRASH, this looks like my last night.’

Zero: ‘Knobbo, Tracey, Garfield and me are leaving.’ (Sob, sob.)

Most of the above people are planning to leave soon.

People are wondering why British Telecom, the owners of Prestel, with a £220000000 profit last year, cannot subsidise Prestel. Well, the communications watchdog, Oftel, strictly forbids this. Complaints are already being sent to Oftel, asking for a change in the rules.

Micronetter Richie gave a good answer to a statement made that the charge would be unfair on infrequent users.

‘They feebly suggested that a single charge would discriminate against infrequent users. BULL! The 1p per minute discriminates against anyone who goes to work; students: young; the unemployed... in fact everyone except a very rich, idle insomniac!’

But don’t forget that Micronet still offers a FREE modem to its yearly subscribers. Still a VTX for Speccy owners, but others, such as Beebers and STers, now get a GEC Datachat 1223 modem (RRP £119.95). A new subscription for one year is £79.95 or £20 per quarter.

And if you take out a Prestel and Telecom Gold joint subscription, you also get FREE access to Micronet! All it costs is £23 a quarter, the usual £40 Telecom Gold registration fee is waived! John Tomany, Managing Director of Telemap Group, commented, ‘It makes sense for computer users who access Prestel and Telecom Gold to use Micronet as well, and at this price they’d be silly not to’.

Phone Micronet for more details.


Telemap have announced that Shades, the multi-user game, can now be used by non-Micronet subscribers. Shades has regularly clocked over 4000 playing hours a week and is now accessible with a 1200/75 baud modem in viewdata or ASCII formats.

As I predicted, Hotel California has been closed. However, not giving up, Telemap have launched Funtel; its flagship product being Shades. Other features are on-line games and competitions. Sadly, it still goes out at 38p a minute peak rate and 25p a minute standard rate.

Melanie Weaver and Jez Thorpe have become the first couple to marry after meeting in a multi-user computer game! They are both avid users of Shades, having been married in the game for a while, and are now officially married.

The dreaded page 92 might be in for a renovation. In olden days page 92 would list your charges during that quarter. However, when Prestel was renovated, the 92 (as it is known) was changed to give only the details of the charges in the current log-on, and not to total them up — or even include TeleTalk charges. At last, Prestel seems to be doing something about it. I have heard that 92 could go back to its original format with a system that registers gateway charges as well! It’s all still being planned though...