BT has added to its proposed new internet tariffs, making it more expensive for ISPs to offer unmetered access.
The telco's Surfport service will transfer unmetered internet calls from local exchanges nationwide to ISPs' premises. Surfport will cost ISPs £45 per port for a minimum order size of 100 ports, or £25 per port for 50,000 or more ports per month.
Surfport will be used in conjunction with BT's Surftime package, which takes traffic from the customer to the local exchange. Surftime will cost ISPs £29.25 a month per customer for 24x7 unmetered access.
ISPs must now decide how to pass these charges on to customers. If they are going to use Surftime they can set whatever price they wish, but must pay BT the monthly charge. They do not have to use Surfport to transfer the traffic - they could use another operator such as Energis.
Many ISPs reacted hesitantly to BT's announcement and said they would need time to explore the implications of the package. AOL said it had not yet decided how to react to the proposed tariffs.
Deborah Roger, a spokeswoman for Thus, which owns Demon Internet, said: "We are committed to fulfilling our customers' needs and we will be interested to see what other providers announce in the next few weeks."
"Thus and the rest of the industry are looking to increase internet access, but with high levels of connectivity. For real growth in the internet, the local loop needs to be unbundled for a widespread uptake of digital subscriber line."
BT said Surfport will reduce the number of individual lines ISPs use from local exchanges by collecting dial-access traffic from exchanges across the UK and delivering it to the ISP in a single pipe.
"Through Surfport ISPs will be able to have a mixture of phone numbers, such as 0845 or 0800, for their different services, supported by one contractual arrangement," said Dave Hughes, head of BTnet services.
"The key is that they can migrate between these different end-user prices, without having to change their Surfport product or contract. This will enable the ISP to have multiple offerings in the market without the risk of trying to balance forecasts across their services."
Hughes said BT has tried to design the package in a similar way to products in the US. "In the US, people pay an extra charge on top of their line rental. We are making a move towards this model."
The availability of Surfport is planned to coincide with the launch of BT Surftime on 1 June this year. Hughes said Surfport will be ready as each exchange goes online.
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