When I (Michael) started with BTnet, many years ago, I was running a small Internet Services Company and doing things for a number of people at very little profit. My BT contract said that I wasn't allowed to carry on competing with BT so I took the decision that if I was going to finish off the things I wanted, they'd have to be done for free. This worked nicely since I got experience in doing things that big organisations don't usually do and at the same time, I had a "test Internet company" to use for BT to do things with. As part of this, I created a small generic Internet Service Provider to act as a "generic customer" and jokingly called it "Shonky Internet". The name stuck when I wrote a couple of documents as a semi-ironic statement and oddly, a number of other people in the industry started to use the phrase "Shonky Internet" to refer to a generic "John Doe" type Internet Company.
Though still held into my BT contract, it could be relaxed these days to allow me to do other things. However... personally, I am no longer allowed to profit from anything for a few years after some rather unprofitable court cases and I am definately not allowed to steer a company that way. So... petulant to the end, I decided I may as well carry on doing what I enjoy and not getting paid a penny for it.
Finally... It's fun! - There are so many companys out there charging a small fortune for doing a crap job (and in some ways, the Internet is still a gold mine) that there may as well be a few organisations who re-balance things out. It also keeps me in free beer and makes people in those expensive providers dislike me intensely, both of which are fun.
2007: You have to bear in mind that when this was written it was fairly alien to find free things on the Internet. These days just about everything is "free" as long as you are willing to sell your soul to advertising so it all sounds a little odd now.