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Friday, 26 May, 2000, 22:50 GMT 23:50 UK
'Historic' ruling on internet access
Surfing the internet
Telephone bills could fall for internet users
A ruling that opens up BT's network to rival internet service providers is being hailed as "historic".

Internet users could see their phone bills slashed as a result of the demand by telephone watchdog Oftel that BT let its competitors supply unmetered access to the web over its network.



A victory for consumers, competition and common sense

AOL

Rival service providers will now find it cheaper to offer their own flat-rate services.

AOL said in a statement: "Oftel's ruling to effectively end BT's role as gatekeeper to the Internet is a victory for consumers, competition and common sense."

The decision arose out of a case brought by MCI Worldcom, after BT refused to give its competitor wholesale unmetered internet access service.

Under the direction, BT must agree to offer the flat-rate access to MCI Worldcom and other operators.

Oftel said BT must give the unmetered access by June 1, when it opens up its own Surftime unmetered service.

'Vibrant internet market'

David Edmonds, Oftel Director General of Telecommunications, said: "It is vital for the UK's vibrant Internet market that other operators and ISPs can compete fairly and offer similar products to their own customers.

"Oftel's decision will enable other operators and ISPs to offer competing unmetered internet access using BT's local network."

A BT spokesman said: "We are obviously looking very closely at the report. We will certainly be going back to Oftel very quickly with our comments."

He added: "It's all part of competition and of widening the use of the internet. It will be good for the customer and for the industry."

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