BT Internet joins the unmetered access party

Free surfing from BT, but only for Cinderella surfers

BT Internet is jumping on the unmetered bandwagon offering customers evening and weekend surfing for a £9.99 monthly fee it announced Tuesday.

This is the first of a glut of unmetered services expected in the wake of Telewest's £10 a month offer for unlimited Internet access and launches Wednesday.

Managing director of BT Internet, Ben Andradi, believes it will encourage new surfers as well as keeping surfer-savvy customers online longer. "This new offering demonstrates our commitment to get everyone in the UK on the Internet," he said.

But the fact that evening access cuts off at midnight has been questioned by other ISPs. A spokesman for screaming.net, one of the first ISPs to offer unmetered access is unimpressed. "Screaming.net customers get free time from 6pm to 8am and have done for the past year," he said. "Many people stay online well past midnight. Why would users change from screaming.net to a service which is not as good?"

This view is echoed by Paul Shalet, commercial director of ISP X-stream. "25 percent of off-peak surfers go online after midnight," he says. "BT is penalising the late-night surfer." While he claims the offer may be new for BT, it is not new for the marketplace. "There are plenty of cheaper offers out there. BT is playing catch-up," he said.

BT Internet would not comment on whether it will also adopt BT's Surftime service. It emerged Tuesday BT is back to the drawing board with Surftime after complaints from ISPs and Oftel. The new service -- dubbed Surftime II -- is due to be discussed by the industry Wednesday.

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