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Monday, June 7, 1999 Published at 10:36 GMT 11:36 UK


Net strike success claimed

Supporters were asked to post this page on their Websites

By Internet Correspondent Chris Nuttall

Sunday's 24-hour telecommunications boycott in protest at the cost of surfing the Internet is being hailed as a success by organisers.

The co-ordinators of the Net strike, the UK's Campaign for Unmetered Telecommunications (CUT), said early reports from countries on the continent showed usage figures were well down on those of a normal Sunday.

But UK traffic statistics were actually up on previous weekends, according to the London Internet Exchange (LINX), which allows Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to easily exchange traffic within the UK.

Spanish surfers in major boycott

In Spain, the Internet Users Association (AI) said 34% of Internet users in Spain - between 800,000 and 900,000 people - were taking part in the protest "against the abuses of the big telecommunications companies".

It said Web page requests were down 38%, Internet Relay Chat by 60% and e-mail by 90%.

Organisers in Greece said three of the main political parties had issued weekend statements on the strike issues, signalling that awareness was being raised.

In the UK, CUT said the strike had been a big success in terms of the media attention it received and pledges to its site had increased by a factor of 10 in the past week, with membership up by 30 to 40%.

UK access 'not overpriced'

But the executive chairman of LINX, Keith Mitchell, said that even allowing for a bank holiday dip in usage last weekend, UK traffic on Sunday was still up on the two previous weekends.

"I think we are seeing a UK-centric view of things, " he said, referring to the subscription-free ISP revolution. "It's a reflection of the fact that UK access charges are not overpriced. The strike could carry more weight in other European countries where there is a lot of scope for reducing charges."

BT Internet chose the weekend to launch 0800 access for its members for 48 hours and the free ISP X-Stream also made an 0800 number available. Most users connecting to ISPs pay a 1p per minute off-peak call charge for accessing the Net.

A spokeswoman for AOL UK said on Monday that it was assessing members' response to an online survey connected with its campaign for unmetered telephone calls.

The UK parliament is due to debate the issue of telecommunications regulation and access to the Internet on Wednesday.

Reasons for strike call

The stated aims of the strike were:

  • Costs of all telephone calls to more closely mirror the independently audited cost to telecommunications operators of providing these calls, as already mandated by EU law.

  • Introduction of flat-rate charges for - in the first instance - local calls, so that anyone can talk to friends and relatives, and Internet users can dial up to Internet Service Providers using a telephone modem, without worrying about the clock ticking and charges ratcheting up.

  • For any remaining metered calls, abolition of the minimum call charge so that calls are paid for solely by the time spent connected.

  • For Internet users, quicker introduction of modern access methods such as xDSL, cable modems and satellite access, which do not use the telephone modem and are a great improvement on it for users.

Countries included in the 24-hour boycott were Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

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