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Saturday, 1 December, 2001, 08:47 GMT
High prices cost broadband dear
Violinists rehearsing before a concert, BBC
BT is starting a classical music subscription service
By BBC News Online technology correspondent Mark Ward

The high cost of high-speed internet access in Britain is the biggest deterrent for people considering taking up the speedy surfing services.

Almost 60% of those questioned for a survey about broadband net access said the high monthly cost was stopping them signing up.

The survey drew comparisons with Germany where less than 40% said cost was a factor, and where far more people are using high-speed services.

Broadband users in Germany number well over one million. By contrast, the UK's high-speed net users have yet to pass 500,000.

Price difference

"It's such a striking contrast in terms of the numbers of subscribers and the rate they are signing up," said Terry Lawlor, a spokesman for which commissioned the survey.

Mr Lawlor said German net users were subscribing to high-speed net access at a rate of up to 30,000 per week. In the UK, the figures are barely a tenth of this total.

He said the difference was entirely down to the cost of net access. A much smaller percentage of those questioned, 22%, said availability was stopping them signing up.

In Germany 30 hours of high-speed net access over a DSL line cost about 20, he said. Installing the service cost 30. By contrast, BT Openworld currently charges 75 for installation and 39.99 per month for its DSL service.

Cable modem services from NTL and Telewest were cheaper, but still more expensive than in Germany, said Mr Lawlor.

In the same week the survey was unveiled, Cardiff businessman Barrie Desmond kicked off a campaign to get one million people to sign a petition calling on the government to act over broadband services.

Mr Desmond said fast net services were a basic service that everyone should be able to enjoy. He called on the government to subsidise them to enable more people to take them up.

He said more needed to be done to educate small businesses, schools and consumers about the benefits of fast net access.

The petition can be signed via the Broadband4Britain website.

Speedy subscription

Those who do have broadband services are gradually finding that they can do more with them.

This week BT Openworld announced the start of a classical music subscription service for broadband users.

For 7.99 per month, subscribers get the right to stream unlimited numbers of classical tracks and download up to 10 of them for burning on to CDs or placing in a portable player.

A customised version of Microsoft's Media Player is being used to prevent music being pirated.

BT Openworld also announced a trial of a game subscription service that, for 9.99 per month, lets subscribers play over 200 games.

Both the subscription services are open to customers of any broadband ISP.

BT Openworld has also announced an alliance with Sony to develop multiplayer games for its PlayStation 2 console.

The BBC's Rebecca Pike
"When broadband was invented, everyone thought consumers would flock to it"
See also:

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Bankruptcy poses broadband debate
24 Sep 01 | Business
Speed freaks sign here
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Pay and play by the hour
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