Unmetered access to benefit techno-phobes most

Too good to be true... Consumers give mixed response to unmetered access announcement

Unmetered Internet access will drag the last of Britain's uninitiated techno-phobes kicking and screaming into the online world according to observers.

The advent of fixed rate Internet access will lead to a massive increase in online gaming and surfing among those already hooked, but it will also encourage those who have not yet cottoned on to the possibilities of the Net to take the plunge, say observers.

A spokeswoman from Consumers in Europe Group is hopeful today's announcement will prove a watershed in British Internet adoption. "Obviously this is in the interest of consumers because it means the price will go down. I would imagine that this will get far more people online."

One cyber café -- the Cyberzone in Croydon -- says BTs announcement should lead to an influx of new Internet users. A spokesman told ZDNet: "Hopefully this will influence home use and use in libraries and schools. It will benefit people who use the Internet a lot at home as well." Despite the positive tone however the spokesman did say the announcement has been a very long time coming. "My personal opinion is that BT is doing what is should have been doing a long time ago."

Analysts however warned users not to get carried away with BT's apparent benevolence. Durlacher analyst Nick Gibson said the announcement might not suit everyone. "First of all you have to work out your own usage. At what point it actually becomes financially viable. You've also got to consider the extent to which this will be used by other ISPs because not everyone wants to use BT."

Nevertheless, Gibson agreed, albeit tentatively, that £34.99 a month for unmetered Net access represents good value. "The issue is that you've got broadband coming out quite soon and it is widely anticipated it will be unmetered although considerably more than £35.

What it will help

  • E-commerce. One criticism of BT's pricing has been the likelihood of the UK trailing the rest of Europe in the adoption of e-commerce.
  • Schools and libraries could benefit if they are using dial-up connection.

  • Cheaper online gaming

  • Consumers will use Internet now that cost is not a barrier

    Concerns

  • Cost of access should be weighed up against exactly how long you're likely to spend online.

  • Effect on other ISPs will be significant. BT has said it will enter into some sort of deal with those most likely to be effected. It has not revealed details.

  • Bear in mind that broadband is on its way and within a year or so, you'll be able to have a much deeper Internet experience for roughly the same price.

Some existing BT customers however remain concerned that this latest development will leave them in the lurch. "BT's new unmetered tariff is too steep in my humble opinion," says Philip Kreil, a ZDNet reader. "£35/month is far too expensive, and to restrict it to Internet only use is a disgrace. I would like to point out that users in the US receive totally unmetered local phone calls for a quarter of the fee proposed by BT."

Another BT customer, Peter Waine, makes the point that this announcement could result in increased bills if some ISPs are forced to rethink their pricing models. "This is bad news for me," says Waine, "Using telnet/greatxscape I get offpeak for nothing, now I'll have to pay £14."

Dan Delany, another ZDNet reader is confused about those who have already signed up for another BT service. "Taking the BT announcement at face value, it seems like a very good thing for the customer, however I do have a couple of concerns: With my current HomeHighway installation my call allowance is currently £10 (inc. VAT). Will BT offer this towards the cost of free Internet access. Will I have to use BT-Internet?

BT did not return calls by press time.

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