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The BBC's Fergal Parkinson reports
"It marks the start of an all out price war"
 real 28k

Barclay Knapp, Managing Director of NTL
"It's hard to get much better than free"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 7 March, 2000, 09:20 GMT
Free net offer leads to jobs boost

Up to 500 jobs are to be created in south Wales following NTL's decision to offer UK subscribers totally free and unlimited internet access.

Communications group NTL announced on Tuesday that it will provide internet access with no start-up or telephone costs whatsoever from April.

It is promising to beat US internet giant Altavista's offer on Monday to supply unlimited internet access free of telephone charges for 10 a year.

The firm has confirmed that the move will lead to 500 new jobs at its call centres in south Wales. It currently has operations in Cardiff and Newport.

The announcement coincides with a pledge by Prime Minister Tony Blair that every British citizen should have unhampered access to the web within five years.

The NTL move puts pressure on other operators such as BT, AOL and Freeserve to abandon per-minute call charges, which have been blamed for holding back internet use.

'Internet for the masses'

Barclay Knapp, NTL's chief executive, said the company plans to offer unmetered subscription-free internet access from 17 April.

It will apply to anyone with a personal computer and a modem, even if they live outside the reach of the company's cable networks.

Users will have to sign up with NTL for their voice telephone calls and spend at least 10 a month on calls.

Mr Blair, in a speech in London to business and union leaders on Tuesday, is set to describe the NTL service as a "significant new offer" which will help bring the medium to the masses.

The Altavista plan

The NTL announcement comes one day after Altavista unveiled its plan to offer unmetered access to the internet.

Typically in the UK, ISPs make money by taking a proportion of the call costs.

Users do not have to pay any monthly subscription, but do have to pay local call rates - meaning the bill grows as every extra minute is spent online.

One report suggests it costs 237 to surf the net for five hours a day, 20 days a month in Britain - compared to just 26 in America.

Altavista aims to pay for its scheme through advertising and e-commerce.

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See also:

05 Mar 00 |  Business
Altavista heralds net revolution
06 Mar 00 |  Business
Battle for the internet
25 Jan 00 |  Business
NTL buys into Aston Villa
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