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Wednesday, 8 March, 2000, 07:59 GMT
BT fuels internet price war
Woman surfing net
The choices for surfers are growing every day
BT has joined the internet access price war with new tariffs that give unlimited use.

Residential customers will get unlimited evening and weekend access for 5.99 a month. That is on top of their monthly line rental of 9.26.

They will also receive up to 80 minutes of inclusive voice calls. Daytime calls will be charged at 1p per minute.

Residential users wanting round-the-clock access will pay 19.99 a month - 29.25 including line rental. For business customers, this package will cost 29.74 excluding VAT - a total of 34.94.

Tariffs start in June

Residential and occasional net users can also pay for the line rental only, with surfing costing 1p per minute during the day, 0.6p in the evenings and 0.5p at the weekend.

The tariffs, which are due to take effect from June, will be called SurfTime.
BT logo
BT is keen to stress the added cost of line rental
They will offer access to any internet service provider (ISP) which can be dialled using an 0844 telephone number.

On the face of it, BT's proposals are less spectacular than other free access schemes, but the company was keen to stress that the cost of line rental has to be added to all deals.

"This is an extremely good deal," said BT's Angus Porter. "If you look at international comparisons, this now makes surfing the internet for business and residential customers cheaper in the UK than it is in the US for typical users."

One-off subscription

BT's move is a response to a price war, which has moved into overdrive this week with consumers being promised much cheaper internet access.

On Monday, Altavista outlined its plan for free use, involving a one-off subscription fee and an annual charge of about 10.

Then on Tuesday, cable company NTL said it would provide access for no charge at all as long as customers spent at least 10 a month with NTL on normal phone calls.

This competition, combined with political pressure, has led BT to rethink its internet strategy.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Tony Blair said he wanted to see everyone in the UK with access to the internet within five years.

Welcoming the moves by NTL and AltaVista, he told a high-tech conference: "I'm sure that others, including BT, are now ready to break new ground themselves."

'Ball and chain'

BT had been working on its SurfTime packages for some weeks. The prices outlined on Wednesday are not substantially lower than those first mentioned in December.

But BT chairman Sir Iain Vallance denied that his company had been caught cold by the offers from rivals.

He said: "One of the reasons why BT is not able to come out of the traps as quickly as we would like is because of the regulatory system under which we operate.

"We are running with a ball and chain around our legs. Until that regulatory system is brought up to date, we would not be able to move as quickly as we would like."

Angus Porter, BT Marketing Director
"We always intended to announce this today"
The BBC's Peter Morgan
"In the USA average charges are just over 12 a month"
See also:

08 Mar 00 | Internet price wars
07 Mar 00 | Business
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