Plusnet plc
IndustryInternet, VoIP, Telephony, IPTV
Founded1997 (as Plusnet Technologies Ltd)
HeadquartersSheffield, South Yorkshire, England
Key people
Andy Baker (CEO)
ProductsInternet services
Landline telephone services
Digital television

Plusnet plc is a British quad play internet service provider (ISP); providing broadband, landline, IPTV and Mobile services. The company was founded in 1997 in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, and became a public limited company (plc) in July 2004 when it was floated on the Alternative Investment Market. On 30 January 2007, Plusnet was acquired by BT Group, but it continues to operate as a separate business. By December 2013, it had over 750,000 customers across the UK.[1]

Plusnet also operates a number of additional businesses: the Metronet, Plusnet Hosting (formerly Pay As You Host), Just The Name and John Lewis Broadband in partnership with John Lewis.



Plusnet's origins go back to 1 February 1997, when Choice Peripherals, a PC computer-peripherals company launched Force9 Internet. Heavily involved in early Plusnet was founder of Choice Peripherals, Paul Cusack (Chairman), who later went on to create the hardware retailer Ebuyer, and Lee Strafford (Managing Director), who later went on to lead Plusnet through most of its development up to the sale to BT in January 2007.

Screenshot of the original Force9 webpage, from 1998

The first Force9 Internet products followed the dial-up internet model popularised by Demon Internet (monthly subscription, plus the cost of local phone calls), but offered at a lower cost to subscribers (£6 a month + VAT), and including more value-added features.[example needed] By October 1997, Force9 had achieved the milestone of 5,000 subscribers, assisted by a marketing partnership with Yorkshire Cable (later to become part of Telewest), in which Yorkshire Cable customers were offered a reduced subscription on a Force9 account. In addition, software which used Force9 Internet as the default ISP was supplied with every modem ordered through Choice Peripherals.

As the business grew, Force9 was split out as a separate operation from Choice Peripherals, with new premises and an umbrella company under which it would operate. This company, Plusnet Technologies Ltd, opened its doors at Internet House, Victoria Quays, Sheffield, in November 1997.

Although the company was named Plusnet, the brand was first used for products by the business sales team at Force9, for leased line and server colocation services to small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

In April 1998, Insight Enterprises, an American PC-peripherals company, made a move into the UK market by acquiring Choice Peripherals. However, Insight were principally interested in the online commerce side of the operation, and not in the internet service provider, Force9. Because of this, Insight largely left the ISP side of the business operating as it had been, with Lee Strafford remaining in charge of the operation.

This coincided with the April 1999 launch of Force9's version of 'unmetered' dial up - which gave 0800 free call rate internet access during weekend hours. The website was re-branded as F9 in order to promote it.

In June 2000, the Force9 brand was changed to Plusnet. This coincided with the introduction of the Surftime dialup internet products, the first real 24/7 unmetered dial-up service in the UK.

Plusnet continued to see month on month growth in the dial-up market, and this growth was further augmented with the launch of a 512 kbit/s ADSL broadband internet service in August 2000. Plusnet launched their first broadband products on the same day that BT first made them available to the UK market.

Plusnet continued to develop their product set over the next few years as new broadband speeds and technologies became available. The initial broadband product performed at a speed of 512 kbit/s, and required a BT Engineer to visit the customer premises to install the service. As time went on, the maximum speeds increased to 1 Mbit/s, 2 Mbit/s and, today, up to 16 Mbit/s. In January 2002, Plusnet launched a 'Self Install' broadband product that the end user was able to set up themselves without the need for a visit to the premises by a BT Engineer.

In November 2005, Plusnet acquired Parbin Ltd and its consumer ISP MetroNet - which at that time provided a range of 'pay as you go' broadband packages. As part of the Parbin acquisition, Plusnet assumed ownership of several other brands; Pay as You Host, INUK and Port995.

Acquisition by BT

Plusnet offices in Burley, Leeds.

On 16 November 2006, it was announced that BT were making an offer for all shares in Plusnet. The BT deal, worth approximately £67 million, was declared unconditional on 24 January 2007 (after Office of Fair Trading (OFT) approval was granted).[2]

On 5 March 2007, shortly after the BT acquisition, the Plusnet chief executive, Lee Strafford, and the finance director, Neil Comer, were dismissed by BT.[3] Strafford was replaced as CEO by a former BT employee, Neil Laycock, who had been with Plusnet in various senior roles for the preceding three years.

BT bought the Brightview Group in July 2007, and Brightview's subsidiary Madasafish became a trading name of Plusnet.[4]

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