Localtel introduced its service in April 1999, offering customers free unmetered Internet access providing they transferred their telephone account over to Localtel. What seemed like a good idea at the time, soon turned into a nightmare for thousands of customers. Access to Screaming.net was virtually impossible, bills were often incorrect, money was debited from peoples accounts that they did not owe and people spent many hours listening to the engaged tone, whilst trying to get through to Localtel's customer service department. People felt helpless and frustrated at Localtel's apparent lack of consideration and concern for the problems they were causing their customers.
As a result of this, a discussion board was set up called Vocaltel (the original user group for Screaming.net) which allowed people to air their frustrations and help each other solve the various problems they were encountering with Localtel. After a few problems, including the owner of the board receiving threatening letters from Localtel, the board closed down completely. On 24th July, 1999, Robin (aka Spam) then set up The Scream under the name "The Scream", with the help of MerlinUK.
A few people who had been involved in Vocaltel moved over to The Scream, including Tim, Mick, Merlin and a few others. Robin had to return to University and could not afford the time to run The Scream! single handedly so gave Tim, Mick and Merlin moderator status to look after things whilst he was away. Unfortunately, around this time, Robin had problems with his university Internet account resulting in Tim and Mick taking care of the forums. As Robin had no way of accessing his Ezboard account, Tim and Mick were left with the problem of trying to get the forums working with no control over how the forums actually looked, due to access limitations. The site grew from about 15 to 30+ users in that period due to the hard work done by Tim, Mick and Merlin.
A new forum came on the scene called Screaming, and Tim decided to check it out. Birgit, who was the administrator of the forum, was looking for moderators to help out, so Tim decided to volunteer, along with Mick and Louise. Due to the access limitations on The Scream!, the design of the forums could not be changed, so an idea came to merge the two forums, The Scream! and Screaming. A survey was held over the colours and forums required, and the site and forums were re-designed, by Birgit, The Scream's web mistress. Screaming was closed, the two teams were merged and Tim was made co-administrator, along with Birgit and Spam. New webspace was acquired, and on 25th September, Birgit's new design was implemented, and The Scream changed its name to The Scream!. Silver asked to become a moderator and Snokrash helped the team out by writing new articles for the site.
In October, after a vigorous campaign by the users of The Scream! and other Localtel customers, Watchdog investigated Localtel and the problems the customers were having and our very own Bill Thomson appeared on the programme. Shortly after this, Bill joined as The Scream!'s Public Relations man, and Merlin started The Scream! newsletter. At this time only eight people were subscribed to the newsletter. Today there are over seven hundred subscribers (24/7/00). On 12th October, Bill Thomson conducted an interview with Jeremy Stokes, the then Managing Director of Localtel. .
From September to the end of the year, the team worked very hard advertising The Scream!, using press releases, visiting newsgroups and getting in touch with other relevant sites for affiliation, to link to and from The Scream! and consequently generate more visitors and users. The Mirc chatroom was set up just before Christmas, which after a slow start began to attract more and more visitors, and in February the java chatroom was added to the site for those users who did not have Mirc. Weekly chats were held on a Sunday, but as it became more popular this was extended to a Wednesday evening as well. Spiritwolf joined the team around this time and did a lot of work on different tutorials for the users of The Scream!, and the site began to expand. At the beginning of December a poll was held by The Scream! to find out what people really thought of Localtel and Screaming.net, which 203 people took the time to complete. It was also around this time that Localtel's marketing director, commonly known as Doc, began to have an input into The Scream!.
Towards the end of 1999, another ISP began providing unmetered access. This ISP was called Greatxscape, and a lot of users of The Scream!, who by now were completely fed up of the bad service they were receiving from Localtel, jumped ship and signed up with Greatxscape. Greatxscape appeared to be a good alternative at the time, but after a few months they decided to start charging people who they considered to be 'abusing the service' by staying connected to the Internet for excessively long periods of time. Another example of a company 'moving the goalposts' after signing up customers.
The beginning of the year 2000, saw the user numbers rise to over 350, and with the introduction of new forums like the Fast forum and the Sales forum, The Scream! began to attract more and more visitors. In January there was a pub night arranged by Merlin, which was attended by Scunner, Avenger, Bill, Tony K and Doc from Localtel. February, 2000 saw the addition of Ian U, Ian H and Sue C to the team, the departure of Merlin, and the promotion of Silver to administrator.
By March The Scream! had received nearly 50,000 hits, had nearly 400 users, and had survived a lame hack attack and a blazing debate on whether or not users should be made to register before posting. Around this time Localtel were taken over by World Online, and on 10th April, 24/7 access was introduced for an extra five pound monthly fee. World Online did not take into account that not all their customers would benefit from such a scheme, and obviously those people who would not receive the benefits of twenty four hour free access were not very happy having to pay for the service. The Scream! campaigned against this policy, held a survey asking the users what they wanted and an amazing 28% disagreed with World Online's policy resulting in them backing down, and offering this service to only those who required it. The Scream! also started to arrange question and answer sessions in The Scream! chatroom, and World Online customers were given the opportunity to question Derick Martin, the managing Director of World Online, about various issues and problems they were experiencing with World Online. This improvement in communication with the customers was a far cry from the early days of Localtel, when for some, it was virtually impossible to receive any satisfaction from the customer service department. Derick Martin also started posting regularly on The Scream!
Around the end of Februaryl, a new ISP came on the scene called Surfsaver. A £39 one off payment, and users received 24/7 unmetered access, without the problems of transferring their phone line over to a different company, and The Scream! added another forum dedicated to Ezesurf and Surfsaver. In May, The Scream! purchased two domain names, the-scream.co.uk and the-scream.com, and were invited to become part of the Maximum PC network, as well as adding three new moderators to the team, Jon Shannow, Pecker (Duncan) and Richard Popham. At this time The Scream! also lost a valuable member of the team when Sue decided she could not afford the time necessary to help run the site, and resigned from her post as moderator.
The team continued to work hard improving The Scream! for the people that used it. In July, Merlin started a technical support night in the chat on Monday nights, and around this time asked to return to The Scream! as a moderator. After a team vote, Merlin was re-instated, along with SueC, who had also requested to return to the team. In the middle of July, the administrators forum was opened, to show the users of The Scream! what actually went on behind the scenes, and how much hard work was put into running the site.
On 4th July the first World Online customer forum took place attended by half a dozen users of the Scream! This was an invaluable opportunity for a handful of of World Online customers to see first hand what World Online were doing to resolve issues like billing problems and connection speeds. The meeting proved to be productive and the visitors returned filled with hope that maybe World Online could sort their problems out.
In August, Pecker (aka duncan) decided to go it alone and set up his own discussion board, and consequently left the team at The Scream! September saw another customer forum meeting attended by Ann, Bill, HLJ and Silver amongst others and the following evening a get together took place in a pub in Camden. Louise, Bill, Claudine, HLJ, Scunner, Sue, Wendie and Jamas all got together and a good time was had by all :-)
This month also saw WOL introduce its new pricing structure. Off peak access was removed, and World Online informed everyone of the introduction of two new packages, Freedom 24 and Freedom Lite. Freedom 24 offered customers one hundred anytime hours for £14.99 and the Freedom Lite package consisted of fifty off peak hours for £2.99 a month. Obviously this was not received very well. People were used to having unlimited off peak unmetered Internet access and World Online had moved the goalposts. The introduction of these new packages, along with the ongoing problems with billing and customer services proved too much for a lot of people and they left in droves. It was around this time that The Scream! was getting nearly 40,000 hits to it`s front page.
Due to this change in World Onlines pricing strategy, The Scream! decided to branch out and cover other unmetered ISP`s and added new forums to the discussion board including Freeserve, AOL and BT. Everything seemed to calm down for a while, and The Scream! continued to support its users, both World Online customers and those who had decided to jump ship and use another provider.
Christmas came and went, and everybody was looking forward to the New Year which brought about quite a few changes. Louise was made administrator, and The Scream! said a sad goodbye to SueC, Ian-U, Richard, Merlin and Bill Thomson who had all decided to concentrate on their own projects. Ann and Panikos were welcomed to the team, followed closely by Onslo. In February Ian H was made administrator, and the team settled down to continue providing help and support to its users. Birgit started on a redesign of the site and everyone mucked in to help her out and eagerly awaited its arrival. The new site was finally revealed to the world on 29th April, 2001.
So that takes us up to today, nearly two years on from when The Scream! first started.
And there you have it! There's been some ups and downs (believe me!) but we all carried on regardless. Here's to The Scream!'s fifth year!
This page ©2000-2001 Louise for The Scream!