BT has bumped up the cost of its high speed Internet trial, claiming its initial pricing was too low and provided more bandwidth than most users needed.
The year-old trial, which provided around 800 users in west London with a 2Mbps downstream and 256Kbps upstream link for £30 per month, ends next week. The trial uses asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL) technology to boost the capacity of copper phone lines.
Customers wanting to continue with the next stage of the trial, which will run until full commercial launch next March, must pay £49.99 per month (although the first two months are free) and have their downstream cut to 512Kbps.
"The original £30 fee was a nominal finger-in-the-air fee because we wanted people who had a genuine interest to join the trial. At that time we had no idea of ADSL pricing," said a BT spokesman.
The spokesman said the downstream data rate had been cut "because content provided on the current trail can easily be provided at 512Kbps."
In its information for customers BT said: "While this is a reduction in access rate, it is still eight to 10 times faster than typical modem speeds, and offers customers an affordable ADSL service when it launches next year."
Trial members who contacted VNU Newswire said they are unhappy with the price rise, which they said makes the service far more expensive than similar offerings in the US.
"To see their new offer to trialists being cut to one quarter and the 'charge for testing' upped from £30 to £50 a month is painful," said one customer, who asked not to be named.
"We feel cheated not because it's a trial but because BT barely responds to the trialists on technical matters - we're there just to make up the numbers. Is BT honestly saying to Oftel and government look, we're implementing something and look, our subscribers are so happy to pay four times the US charge rate," the customer added.
BT Interactive customers who choose to continue the trial will keep their hardware, but have to receive a software upgrade to their equipment, which can be done remotely by BT.
They will also lose service for a week from 8 November and again for two days when their exchange is upgraded.
BT said only three people have so far said they will not continue with the trial.
BT announced in July that it would upgrade 400 local exchanges in major UK cities with its ADSL technology, by March 2000.
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