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Sunday, June 6, 1999 Published at 18:34 GMT 19:34 UK


Net strike to bite in Europe

No surfing and no phone calls for 24 hours say organisers.

By Internet Correspondent Chris Nuttall

Internet users in 15 European countries are staging the biggest strike to date in protest at high telecommunications charges.

Chris Nuttall: AOL UK is backing the strike
Organisers appealed for everyone able to access the Net not to connect on Sunday and want telephone users to also avoid making calls.

Internet users in Europe want to stay online longer but say they cannot afford to because they are being charged by the minute for local calls to their Internet Service Provider.

AOL backs strike

One such provider, AOL UK, with more than 600,000 members is backing the strike. It supports the American model of a flat-rate phone charge that effectively makes local calls free.

"The grassroots campaign mirrors AOL Europe's longstanding opposition to metered local call charges, which the company believes remain the biggest single obstacle to the growth of the Internet and e-commerce in Europe," it said in a statement.

Industry analysts concur that electronic commerce is not taking off in Europe the same way as it did in the US because of per-minute charges.

In a report last month, Jupiter Communications said: "metered charges, not total cost, is the culprit. Low use appears to have more to do with the cost of metered calls than with the total cost of metered access."

The UK parliament is due to debate the issue of telecommunications regulation and access to the Internet next week.

February strike successful

Internet users in seven European countries staged a 24-hour strike in February in protest at prices. Internet traffic was reduced by as much as 95 per cent, hitting the revenues of telecommunications companies.

The UK organisers of this weekend's strike expect an even bigger response now 15 countries are involved. Their stated aims are:

  • Costs of all telephone calls to more closely mirror the independently audited cost to telecommunications operators of providing these calls, as already mandated by EU law.

  • Introduction of flat-rate charges for - in the first instance - local calls, so that anyone can talk to friends and relatives, and Internet users can dial up to Internet Service Providers using a telephone modem, without worrying about the clock ticking and charges ratcheting up.

  • For any remaining metered calls, abolition of the minimum call charge so that calls are paid for solely by the time spent connected.

  • For Internet users, quicker introduction of modern access methods such as xDSL, cable modems and satellite access, which do not use the telephone modem and are a great improvement on it for users.

Countries included in the 24-hour boycott are Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

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