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Sunday, January 31, 1999 Published at 08:58 GMT


European Net strike called

All closed up: 24 hour strike called over the web

By Internet Correspondent Chris Nuttall

Internet users in seven countries are being urged to take part in the first coordinated European strike in protest against high access charges.

Web surfers in Belgium, France, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland are asked to avoid going online during the 24-hour action on Sunday.

The strike is being organised by the UK-based Campaign for Unmetered Telecommunications (CUT) which has developed a Website and a mailing list to combine the different national campaigns.

Last year, there were Net strikes in six countries: Britain, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Slovakia and Spain. CUT is planning two large-scale events in the summer involving at least 13 European countries.

In most cases, the strikes are against national telecom companies in protest at call charges imposed for accessing the Internet. While Americans do not pay for individual local calls, this is not the case in most other countries and is seen as a major drag on the growth of Internet usage.

Greek users boycotted the Net for 24 hours earlier this month, protesting at rate increases by the state phone company, OTE. The French Association of Unhappy Internet Users called a strike in December to try to persuade France Telecom to bring in a flat monthly charge rather than the equivqlent of $1.60-$3 an hour for Net access.

On Sunday, the Association's site's home page said it was shut down and contained a message reminding visitors to boycott the Net for 24 hours.

CUT says its united European campaign aims for:

  • Costs of all telephone calls to more closely mirror the independently audited cost to telecommunications operators of providing these calls.
  • Introduction of flat-rate charges, for calls to an Internet Service Provider using a telephone modem, to enable all Europeans to access the Internet without economic or geographic discrimination.
  • Abolition of minimum call charges, so that metered calls are charged solely by the time spent connected.
  • Quicker introduction of modern Internet access methods such as cable modems, satellite access and xDSL, which do not use the telephone modem and are a great improvement on it for users.

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