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Monday, 28 January, 2002, 23:52 GMT
UK web surfers increase
Woman visits Tesco website
Four million homes have unmetered internet access
Almost one in two homes in the UK now has access to the internet, according to the latest figures.

A total of 45% of homes are now online compared with 39% three months ago, said telecoms regulator Oftel on Tuesday.

And more than four million UK homes now have unmetered internet access. But analysts predict that the price of access to the internet may rise in the year ahead.

Most people surf the web using computers connected to the internet via phone lines rather than by digital television or mobiles.

The low cost of unmetered access packages has allowed people to go online for hours. But it is feared that as smaller firms run out of cash or are bought out by bigger firms, prices may rise.

Deadline

The latest figures on internet access were unveiled by Oftel after it set out measures designed to secure the future of unmetered internet access services.

Under proposals published on Monday, the former telecoms monopoly British Telecom would no longer be allowed to make rival operators using its network pay in advance for unmetered internet access.

At present, independent telecoms operators pay for metered access in arrears, but are obliged to pay up-front for popular unmetered internet services.

The easier payment terms are designed to encourage smaller telecoms service providers to continue offering unmetered internet packages.

Oftel has given BT and its smaller rivals until 25 February to comment on the plans, and will publish final proposals later in the year.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's John Moylan
"Analysts believe the price of getting online could increase significantly in the year ahead"
See also:

28 Jan 02 | Business
Boost for unmetered web access
01 Feb 01 | Business
Oftel keeps price grip on BT
18 Jan 01 | Business
Oftel speeds up urban broadband
18 Jan 01 | Business
Oftel calls industry summit
29 Dec 00 | Business
Oftel finalises charges
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