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Friday, 22 September, 2000, 11:45 GMT 12:45 UK
World Online drops unmetered access

World Online has become the latest internet service provider to stop offering unmetered internet access.

Unmetered internet access means a customer pays a fixed charge and can then use the internet for as long as they like.

World Online has decided to offer its customers 100 free hours a month instead of wholly free internet access, it confirmed on Friday.


We have been waiting and waiting for BT's Friaco product to become available

World Online
Like many UK ISPs which have abandoned similar services, it blames BT for failing to offer it a flat-rate service.

For 14.99 a month, World Online now offers its customers 100 free hours a month. These customers then pay 1 penny a minute after that as well as a 9.26 line rental charge.

World Online told BBC News Online that the scheme took effect on Wednesday for new customers. Existing customers should have been informed by email and by post on Wednesday that they have 21 days before the new pricing structure comes into force, a World Online spokeswoman said.

So far, the company has failed to tell at least some of its customers about the proposed changes.

Profits sapped

World Online found the rates charged by telecoms giant BT effectively sapped whatever profit they could make on offering an unmetered service.

As yet, BT does not offer a convenient flat-rate service to ISPs.

Friaco, a flat-rate charging system, was meant to have been introduced in June, but BT and most ISPs are still at odds over its implementation. BT offers the product only at its local exchanges, while service providers want to tap into the BT network at main telephone exchanges.

"We have been waiting and waiting for BT's friaco product to be available," a World Online spokeswoman said. "We were subsidising our current customers to such a degree."

The Dutch company points out that 80% of their customers are online for less than 90 hours a month so will not be affected by the change.

Tiscali takeover

When World Online launched its initial public offering in July, it was the biggest flotation of a European internet company.

Earlier this month, Italian ISP Tiscali agreed to pay $5.1bn for it, creating Europe's second-biggest ISP.

This news provided fresh hope for World Online shareholders, who have seen the share price plunge since it emerged that its founder Nina Brink had sold most of its holdings at a low price.

The controversy surrounding the sale of Ms Brink's shares led to several shareholder complaints and resulted in her resignation in April.

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Background:
See also:

22 Aug 00 | Business
Battle for the internet
22 Aug 00 | Business
Altavista blames BT for 'fiasco'
18 Jul 00 | Business
Unmetered web access in trouble
07 Sep 00 | Business
Tiscali pays $5bn for World Online
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