The British middle classes' favourite high street retailer, John Lewis, is renowned for its customer service.
Britain's ISPs are not renowned for their customer service, although sometimes they are fast and often they are cheap.
So one can see why John Lewis thinks it will make a significant splash with this week's own-brand broadband and phone service launch.
John Lewis Broadband offers no activation fees, freephone support and a free wireless router. There are three packages, all on 12-month "no hidden catches" contracts.
- Standard - up to 16Mbps, 20GB cap, £24.50 a month
- Unlimited - up to 16Mbps, No limit, £31.50
- Fibre - up to 38Mbps, 100GB cap, £38.50
In the any questions section of its website John Lewis Broadband says it uses traffic management. Also the service will "let you know if you're approaching your package's limit. Once you've reached it you can buy more gigabytes for £5 per 5GB".
This is not the budget end of the market, where Tesco Broadband plays, for instance.
Virtual is as virtual does
John Lewis is already a broadband service provider through its Greenbee and Waitrose brands. The Sheffield ISP Plusnet supplies these services, making John Lewis a "virtual ISP" in industry parlance.
We assume that it remains a virtual ISP, with John Lewis Broadband, and we will tell you who the provider is, or providers are, when we find out.
John Lewis wants all Waitrose and Greenbee customers to upgrade to JLB, but it may lose some along the way, as it is phasing out those services in a few months.
We also assume John Lewis knows what it is letting itself in for as it has some broadband form. But who loves their ISP?
Bad internet days translate to bad ISP in most people's eyes. And John Lewis surely is placing its hard-won reputation for customer service at risk.
Let's have a poll, shall we?
Some of you may recall that El Reg had its own virtual ISP service, once. It was called VCISP.net - the VC stood for Vultural Capitalist - and ran for maybe six months until March 2003 when the service provider Affinity Internet sold its ISP operations shortly before going bust. About 1000 people had signed up for the service, - and no we never did get paid by Affinity.