Our Voyage of Invention

UKonNET is the name of the unique access service that we programme into the configuration of every UKSofa It gives each user the ability to access their own UK-based internet connection point from anywhere in the UK, or globally.

UKONNET is a trademark used under licence by CommerceCall for UKSofa

Designed by the founder behind UKSofa, it’s based on the simple concept behind the “view-my-screen” services that emerged in the 1980’s. This is the story behind UKSofa.

View-My-Screen

We started in business in 1984. The internet was very young. Mention video conferencing and the response was “what’s that”. “View-My-Screen” was a very early remote access service used by IT engineers and Zoom was the name of a 1982 pop single by Fat Larry’s Band!

Want some nostalgia?

Then click the image and enjoy ZOOM ing as you carry on reading.

Move forward three decades and everyone wanted to view websites from all over the world. Tech giants were now becoming increasingly savvy. They wanted to maximise profits by selling the same product at different prices, depending on the country of sale. Geo-blocking became common. But it was also limiting access.

WATCHING UK TELEVISION IN FRANCE

Why could I not watch a programme that was freely available to me when sitting on my Sofa in the UK? Decades previously I was able to do just that with simple technology that allowed me to view my UK home’s PC screen from France? There had to be a solution. When on holiday my UK home was locked up, so those “View-my-Screen” services would not be possible. But maybe I could still access my home router. Power cuts? Leaving the router switched off? There were so many flaws behind this simple idea.

Start with the Router.

We had recently started working with a new Broadband supplier. Like us, but unlike the main market players, they actually valued their customers. I mentioned my idea. “Not possible, but I like it. Leave it with me” As a fully authorised UK Internet Service Provider (“ISP”) they had all the kit; important because if we’d had to buy it, the cost would have been north of ¬£3m! They also had the credibility and all the connectivity. The result came fast. “First, we’ll use a data tunnel to connect your device to a router we’ll set up for you and, because you’re not going to be at home, we’ll host it for you. Second, each customer will have a unique Fixed IP address so every site visited will know who’s knocking at their door. They had just designed an ideal service for a UK-based travelling salesman and with luck WE HAD JUST INVENTED UKSofa. But would it also work overseas. They tweaked it. Would it work? Would people want it?

Testing Times

I suggested a family holiday, my daughter, then a recently graduated B.Sc., glumly responded “I suppose it will be by car again to France with more chateaux and more vineyard visits”. For some reason I said “How about Italy”.

Our travels commenced. We went (via France of course) and drove to Switzerland, Germany, Slovakia, Italy, Vatican City and Austria, where I stopped to check my UKSofa from outside the church near the gardens made famous by “The Sound of Music”!

From a hotel room overlooking the Lagoon in Venice, I used my UKSofa to check BBC’s live coverage of a Football match (sorry, no idea who was playing or why!)

Back into France. I had watched the BBC Breakfast News live in every Country we had visited. On the first day of the Gilets Jaune protests we had crossed from Italy to France, so the next morning in our hotel room we watched the TV coverage simultaneously from the BBC (via UKSofa – L/H screen) and from the French networks. The different emphasis of the reporting between the country’s broadcasters was staggering.

My son was also able to watch his UK services with Sky, Amazon Prime and Netflix. UKSofa was global. It just worked. So I treated myself. We happened to be Burgundy.

Suddenly, the car was full of wine! Sadly, we had to come back home. I had work to do!

Brexit Bonus

Some love it. Some loathe it, but for us Brexit was a marketing gift. Streaming service providers, whether paid-for (Amazon, Netflix) or free-to-access (BBC, ITV Hub), re-doubled their efforts to find and ban access to non-resident users of VPNs. In January 2021, the EU removed UK streaming service providers from their legal obligation to allow EU-wide access to customers with UK-based streaming accounts. Suddenly, if you had a UK streaming account and had paid to build an expensive library of content (to view on holiday), access to your accounts when outside the UK – was banned. Our phones started ringing.

UKSofa Today

A UKSofa account now gives each customer the 21st century equivalent of the old View-my-Screen style service. When away from home, whether in the UK or elsewhere, they all have access to their own UK-based Internet service and to all the websites (and streaming services) they want to view. Just as if they were sitting on a Sofa in the UK.

I think it’s time for a holiday, on the Jurassic South Coast of Dorset, or in one of the French Gites I still want to buy – with my own UKSofa.