Free (unmetered) Internet use is sweeping the UK. And while it's changing the way people use the Net, I don't think it will affect the backlash against bloated Web sites.
I now have two unmetered services at home: BT Internet and Telewest's SurfUnlimited. The BT service provides free (0800) calls between 6pm and midnight on weekdays and all day at weekends. The Telewest/Cable Internet service offers unmetered use all week, but only on a Telewest phone line.
BT has been providing free weekend calls for months and its service has been working very well. The addition of free evening calls, from March 1, caused congestion problems but I think these will soon be sorted out. The main drawback with the service is that BT cuts users off every two hours, whatever they happen to be doing. Getright is essential for resuming file downloads.
Telewest only launched its service on February 14 and it was swamped. But I've found that, outside peak times, it also works very well.
Having an unmetered service has made me more likely to download software and files I'd never have bothered with before. Others will no doubt spend their extra hours swapping MP3 music files (napster.com), playing games such as Ultima Online, or hanging around in chatrooms.
But not paying for time online has not made me less impatient with bloated Web sites. Indeed, I'm developing an antipathy to Macromedia Flash to add to my hatred for frames. I object to having my time and money wasted, but I'm much less short of money than I am of time.
I'm not alone. There's also a backlash against bloat in the US, where unmetered Web access is nothing new.
A good Web page should be as pretty as Google and as fast as Yahoo. If your site doesn't compare with those then it's costing you traffic. It's costing you money.
Jack Schofield is computer editor of The Guardian