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.
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:
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.