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Wednesday, 8 November, 2000, 13:07 GMT
AOL: Unmetered web access for all
AOL logo
Internet service provider AOL UK has announced that it will open up its offer of unmetered web access to everybody - without restrictions or delays.

When AOL UK first announced its unmetered deal - 15 a month for 24 hour access to the web without any additional phone charges - it limited the offer to existing members.

"Hundreds of thousands of members" are said to have taken up the service, although AOL refuses to provide exact numbers.

But now the company says it has enough network capacity to offer the flat rate deal to everybody who wants to sign up with AOL in the UK - and the first month will be free.

Unmetered web access has been offered by a large number of UK internet service providers (ISPs), but most limited themselves to a "controlled roll-out", with small numbers of users actually being given access to the service.

Several ISPs actually bumped those customers from their networks, who assumed that unmetered access actually meant unmetered access. Among those cutting out "heavy users" were Breathe, Libertysurf, WorldOnline and Freeserve.

One ISP, Altavista UK, actually never launched its unmetered service, despite pretending that it did exist.

'We've got the capacity'

Unlike the United States, many European users of the internet have to pay telephone charges for every second they are online - limiting overall internet usage on the continent.

In the UK, this pricing model made it costly for ISPs to provide unmetered access, especially as the country's former telecom monopoly, British Telecom, was slow in offering flat-rate access deals to rival operators.

Telecoms watchdog Oftel has now forced the company to introduce such so-called "Friaco" tariffs for flat-rate wholesale internet access.

AOL UK was one of the first ISPs to take up the offer.

Many other service providers, however, are complaining that BT's Friaco offer is not good enough, and does not give them access to all the UK's internet users.

AOL UK says it can circumvent the problem by co-operating with a number of different telecom providers. A spokeswoman said: "We have now got the network capacity to offer the service across the UK".

Karen Thomson, AOL UK's managing director, said: "Today marks an historic turning point for the interactive medium in this country, as we at AOL UK are fulfilling our pledge to 'Stop the Clock' for UK consumers."

Pricing structure

AOL UK will offer three different deals to its customers.

  • Unmetered access - 14.99 will buy users unmetered web access around the clock, using up to seven account names. The first month is free.
  • Metered tariff - 9.99 give users access at a special low phone rate of one pence per minute.
  • Light-user tariff - 4.99 buys three free hours every month; further access costs 3.9p per minute or 2.35 an hour.
The ISP says that customers now use its service on average one hour per day, since the flat rate deal was introduced.

The lure of unmetered access also pushed up AOL UK's subscriber numbers to one million.

In order to push the new unmetered deal to consumers, AOL UK has linked up with supermarket giant Asda.

In return for offering free CDs with AOL software in its retail outlets, the internet service will feature Asda as its preferred food and drink retailer in its shopping and lifestyle channels.

See also:

22 Aug 00 | Business
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