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AOL Europe demands flat-rate fee for Net connections

It's stifling European online business' ability to compete, claims CEO

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High telephone call charges are smothering the development of an Internet-based economy in Europe, according to leading Internet access provider AOL. In an unprecedented and outspoken statement issued today, the world's largest Internet access provider lent its full support for a radical overhaul of the telecom pricing structures in Europe. Without immediate change, Europe risks falling behind other regions such as the US, the company maintains, something AOL believes would be lamentable. "We must overhaul the outdated telecoms pricing structure which sustains artificially high call rates for consumers," said Andreas Schmidt, president and CEO of AOL Europe. "The EU has an historic opportunity to build an information-based economy -- one that will fuel job creation and provide consumers and businesses with an unprecedented array of new choices." "However, this will only happen if Europe takes action now to eliminate high local call prices and per minute charging for consumers. The head of the Campaign Unmetered Telecommunications (CUT), a UK-based organisation that lobbies for change throughout Europe, has welcomed AOL's support of unmetered calls. CUT's Alastair Scott was flabbergasted that such a big player in the industry had come out in support of his campaign. "This is an extremely important move. AOL is the biggest advocate yet in favour of unmetered telecoms charges," he said. But a spokesperson for British Telecom disputed claims that call charges were high and said that the company offered "value for money". He said supporting unmetered calls was akin to getting something for nothing. "There's no such thing as a free lunch," he said. ® See also AOL slams Deutche Telekom Net access foul play

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