Wednesday, July 29, 2009

"Unlimited" means "limited" at Skype

Some of the local hams have been talking about Skype a lot lately, presumably because someone introduced it to them and it is kinda neat at first and it is free in its basic incarnation. Now I used to use Skype because of a few Wikipedia-related things that made use of it, but I haven't for quite a while now.

On their front page Skype is advertising, in big letters, that you get "unlimited" calls to cell phones, mobiles, and land lines with its subscription service. But the careful reader that I am notices that there's a suspicious looking asterisk on "unlimited" and notes that there's a Marketing Qualification on that "unlimited": a "fair use policy" applies to your "unlimited use", and in fact you're only allowed 10,000 minutes a month, six hours a day, and not more than 50 distinct numbers a day.

To be fair, there are only about 40,000 minutes in a month, so in order to exceed this "fair use policy" you'd have to be on the phone six hours a day, every day, but still, that's a limit. "Unlimited" means "no limits", not "a high limit that you're unlikely to reach".

What Skype doesn't say explicitly, but is clearly intending to do, is prohibit the use of their service for commercial purposes, more specifically for telemarketing. Which is reasonable. I'm just peeved at the idea that "unlimited" has defined, fixed limits.

Still, it beats Comcast's notion of "unlimited", which is "unlimited unless we decide you're using too much according to no defined standard, in which case we'll suspend your account without warning". At least Skype sets forth a standard and tells you the consequences for exceeding them up front.