The battle for fast and cheap Internet access in the UK is heating up, following the agreement by Patricia Hewitt, the government minister responsible for Internet commerce, to meet a UK pressure group campaigning for unmetered telephone charges.
The Campaign for Unmetered Telecommunications (CUT), an Internet-based pressure group based in west London, has lobbied the government to legislate so that UK phone companies follow their US counterparts in only charging a flat fee for local calls instead of a per minute charge.
CUT spokesman, Erol Ziya, claimed that worries about running up large phone bills is preventing UK uptake of the Internet among consumers and hindering Britain's position as an Internet economy trailblazer in Europe.
Ziya said that the only people opposing unmetered calling are telephone companies like BT and Cable & Wireless.
However, Kingston Communications, the telephone company that serves the Hullregion, launched its own flat rate ADSL service yesterday which it billed as"the 'UK's first TV-based untimed high speed Internet service." ADSL is abroadband service which in its consumer version offers 256Kbps connections,making it four times as fast as BT's ISDN-based Home Highway service.
For just £14.99 per month and no extra call charges Kingston is offering aInternet and email ADSL connection. But quixotically this is only availablethrough a set-top box as part of a TV-based Web browsing package.
And subscribers outside Hull cannot use it. "In the future we may offer anunmetered service for PC users," said a Kingston spokeswoman.
Earlier this year BT raised hopes that it would finally adopt an unmeteredcharging model for its forthcoming ADSL service aimed at consumers. Duringfield trials conducted earlier this year, BT offered unmetered ADSLconnections for just £30 per month and initially it promised that priceswould start at £40 per month, making it an attractive option for many heavyInternet users.
However, the service's launch has been postponed until nextMarch and BT appears to be backing off from its price promises.
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