Virgin's boss challenges Net content fee model

Richard Branson laid down a challenge to AOL as he announced Virgin Net is to go free yesterday.

"I read this morning that Frank Keeling, marketing director of AOL, believes that people will always be willing to pay to look at interesting and relevant content. We are offering it free to the customer, along with free access," Branson said.

Virgin Net was launched in November 1996 and has attracted 150,000 customers. In March a personal finance channel will be added to its site, with already include news, travel, sport and shopping.

For new customers, free access will be available from 1 May along with five e-mail addresses and 10Mb of Web space. Existing subscribers will have the £11.99 fee waived from 1 April.