BT is preparing to offer customers direct access to the Internet without subscribing to a service provider. But the scheme is already under fire from the industry, which claims it will be open to criminal abuse as users will be impossible to trace.
The pay-as-you-go service, known internally as BT Click, has been on trial in Northern Ireland and is expected to go live in the first week of September, sources close to the project told 'VNU Newswire'.
BT hopes the service will grow the Internet marketplace, enabling newcomers to sample the Net at a low cost and without commitment. Initially, BT customers will pay around one penny per minute additional charge on standard local charge rates to access the World Wide Web.
A simple software download via CD, floppy disk or directly from the Internet will get people connected without the need for registration, fixed term contract, monthly subscription to an Internet service provider (ISP) or - most importantly to the industry critics - a password. There are numerous email packages that can be downloaded free from the Internet.
?There is no registration, premium number or log on, which means people using the service are non-traceable,? David Kennedy, chief executive of the Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA) told 'Newswire'. ?People can check into a hotel under a false name, pay their bill in cash, log on to the service and do what they want, and they will be impossible to trace. It's ripe for all kinds of criminal abuse."
?Unless there is a credit card there will be no way of tracking it," added Kennedy.
The ISPA is also worried that new and infrequent users going on to the Internet through BT?s service will not get the handholding they require.
The association has written a letter of complaint to the UK telecomms industry watchdog, Oftel.
BT told 'Newswire' that it is well aware of the issues and is currently in discussions with Oftel. ?We understand the concerns and we will have a mechanism in place to track users in the absence of a password log-on,? said a BT representative.
Oftel was unavailable for comment.
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