MSN denies plan to pull Net access

The Microsoft Network (MSN) has denied reports that it is to pull Internet access in the UK, but not in words that suggest it will continue as an ISP forever.

The online service issued a press release that denies it will follow the action of MSN France by stopping its offer of Net access, but its phrasing suggested that its attitude towards Net access provision is ambivalent. Users can already subscribe to MSN content without using Microsoft as an ISP.

"As a software company, Microsoft has never aspired to be in the ISP business and has provided the access element of the MSN service in partnership with one of the UK's leading ISPs UUNet... Many consumers find it more convenient to have Internet access provided with their online service - a one-stop shop... The Microsoft Network has never been in the internet access business per se - it had always provided access through partners. Microsoft plans to continue to focus on its core competencies - of software, user interface design, transaction-focused content and marketing to provide the best Internet experience for users. MSN will supply access as part of an integrated package as long as there is consumer demand for it."

The release goes on: "As the choice of access services continues to increase, access will increasingly become de-coupled from content and other services. And as the consumer becomes more sophisticated, they will shop around for a broader range of access and content deals. In the long term, the Internet business will evolve - as access becomes more of a commodity we will see an increasing relevance being placed on the number of people visiting a Web site over subscriber numbers where access is the focus.

The words echo those of UK director Judy Gibbons who in September told ZDNN: "We recognised that access should never be a priority - you just go through the best provider. It's a scale business. [WorldCom subsidiary] UUnet have been very smart in that they've recognised that you win based on volume, and that means key large customers."

MNS UK recently lost several key staff after announcing changes to programming.

MSN has 150,000 subscribers in the UK and 2.4 million worldwide.