"Unlimited Access" is NOT the same as dedicated access, a continuous 24x7 connection.
It is a common practice among dial-up Internet service providers to use the term "Unlimited Access" in their marketing tactics. However, if you attempt to stay continuously connected for an entire month, your account will most likely be terminated for excessive usage!
Unlimited Access does NOT mean you can stay connected for unlimited hours each month! Most dial-up service providers impose monthly limits, which is usually dictated by the ISP's contract with their backbone network provider(s).
Some ISPs clearly state the maximum number of hours you can use each month. Other ISPs aren't so forthright about usage limits. Is it dishonest or deceptive for an ISP to promote "unlimited access", yet impose monthly limits? Maybe, but not really, if you understand how ISPs have defined unlimited access since the birth of the Internet.
Internet service providers define "unlimited access" as the ability to access any Web site at any time. Unfortunately, most consumers do not understand the meaning of unlimited access, as defined by ISPs. In the early 90’s, before commercial ISPs such as AOL became widely popular, dozens of community FreeNets provided free online connectivity via the TELNET protocol. There were many access limitations. Most FreeNets did not provide access to other FreeNets. TELNET users were often limited to the information resources provided by their local FreeNet. Hence, emerging commercial (pay for access) service providers promoted their service as "unlimited access", providing the ability to access any site available on the Internet.
Carefully read an ISP's legal terms for usage limits, which may include:
- Idle Disconnect - Some ISPs automatically disconnect your modem if their system determines your connection has been inactive for a period of time, usually 10 or 15 minutes. Internet service providers have a realistic expectation that you will manage your Internet session much like you handle regular phone calls. When you finish a call you hang up the phone, rather than keeping the caller waiting while you run off to the kitchen to prepare dinner...
- Maximum Session Disconnect - An ISP may limit how long you can remain online in a single active session. 5 hours is the average.
- Daily Limit - Maximum time allowed online per day. Depending on the ISP the limit may range from 5 to 15 hours.
- Monthly Limit - Total hours allowed per calendar month or billing cycle. ISPs in the $10/month range usually provide a maximum of 150 hours to 200 hours. 150 hours averages 5 hours per day. 200 hours averages 6.5 hours per day. Most ISPs will block Internet access when you reach the monthly limit. Service is restored at the beginning of the month or new billing cycle. Beware of ISPs that charge fees for exceeding the monthly access limit. You could be legally obligated to pay an additional fee for each hour over the limit, or some other monetary penalty.
Read and understand an ISP's contractually binding legal statements (Terms of Service, User Agreement, etc.) BEFORE signing up. Contact the ISP if you have questions.
Dial-Up Access Numbers
AVOID EXCESSIVE PHONE CHARGES! Contact your local phone service provider BEFORE you change dial-up access numbers. Confirm the new number is charged to your phone bill as a local call. Unexpected phone bill charges is the most common problem reported by dial-up Internet users.
Although an access number may be in your area code or located in your general geographic region, it may not necessarily be a local number. You may incur substantial telephone charges if you choose an access number that is not covered by your local calling plan.
Online Shopping Safety
|#1||Pick a Card - Just One Card|
|Using just one credit card when buying online helps you track your purchases. Use a card with a low credit limit to lower your risk. Don't use an ATM or debit card.|
|#2||Know the E-business|
|Use only reputable e-businesses with a street address and phone number, so you can contact them directly with your questions.|
|#4||Lock In Security|
|When buying online, look for an unbroken lock symbol in the status bar on your Web browser and "https" at the beginning of the Web site address. This means your personal information is encrypted or scrambled so no one can read it during transmission.|
|#5||Avoid E-Voyages of No Return|
|Before you buy, review the company's return policy, product warranty and delivery information provided on the Web site. Call the company directly if you have further questions.|
|#6||Don't Lose Your Sense of Identity|
|Think twice before providing personal information such as your Social Security number, which can be the key that opens the door to identity theft. If you provide personal information, check that the Web site address starts with "https" and your browser displays the lock symbol.|
|#7||Kids Are Consumers Too|
|Children should check with a parent before giving out personal or family information online. Parents should talk to kids about privacy issues. Make the Internet a family affair.|
|#8||Keep a Paper Trail|
|Remember to keep a record of all online transactions.|
|#9||Can't Get No Satisfaction?|
|If you don't get what you paid for, contact the e-business. If you're not satisfied, call your credit card company and the Department of Consumer Affairs.|
|#10||If It Sounds Too Good to be True...|
|Say "scram" to scams by steering clear of get-rich-quick pitches and false advertising claims. A slick-looking site could be legit or bogus, so don't judge a company by the appearance of their Web site.|
Being Frank About Search Engine Rank
You're using your favorite search engine, ready to find the most appropriate sites for your needs. You type in your search terms, and up comes a list of the most relevant sites, right? Not necessarily, says the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the federal government's consumer protection agency.
Often, search engines look for your search term within the web pages they've collected and indexed. The results reflect the search engine's determination of how relevant the site's content is to your inquiry. But some search engines will rank sites higher in your results if the site pays a fee, regardless of its relevance to your terms. FTC officials say it's a savvy surfer who knows how search results are sorted and ranked. It can make a difference in which search engines you choose to use and how you interpret the results.
If you use Internet search engines, the FTC wants you to know that:
- Some search engines have programs for paid placement and paid inclusion.
- Paid placement means Web sites or URLs pay search engines for higher rankings or more prominent placements in search results.
- Paid inclusion means Web sites or URLs pay to be included in a search engine's pool of results available for display, but not to be more prominent.
- Sometimes, third-party partners, like other search engines or guide sites, provide listings to search engines. If a partner has its own payment arrangements with a Web site, it could affect the results on the search engine you use.
- Many sites indicate whether a placement is paid for. If the search engine separates some search results as "Sponsored Listings," they may be paid for placement. But keep in mind that results may be grouped under other labels. Look for terms like "featured listings," "recommended sites," "search partner" or "products and services." If those sites are ranked higher than others or placed in a more prominent location than others, it could be a tip-off that the search engine uses a paid placement program.
- You may find an explanation of the type of paid placement or paid inclusion program the search engine uses. If such a program is in use, the explanations should be easy to find and understand. If they're not and the omission bothers you, let the search engine know.
- Paid inclusion programs do not guarantee higher rankings for listings and may provide features that are useful. For example, paid inclusion programs may provide consumers with better choices if the programs allow search engines to review URLs more quickly or review Web sites more deeply than they would otherwise.
- You have a choice. Before you decide which search engine to use, consider whether the use of payment programs for placement or inclusion is important to you.
The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues, visit www.ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261.