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UK Internet users could be on the brink of nation-wide free Net access following the success of a trial last night using a freephone 0800 number for dial-up access. Paul Myers - the MD of the service provider, The X-Stream Network, which originally pioneered subscription - free Net more than a year ago-said he had not ruled out providing a permanent freephone number for full 24-hour Internet access. "The response we had from the public last night was better than we imagined and we'll be watching the development of this with interest-even if it is costing us a fortune," he told The Register. Asked specifically whether he would open up the scheme permanently, he said: "I refuse to rule anything out at this stage." Myers also hit out at critics who said that X-Stream's service wasn't robust enough to handle the deluge of eager users trying to access the Net for free. Although no official figures were available concerning the total number of users who logged on between 6pm and midnight last night, he said he had received only good reports from Net users who had taken advantage of the offer. Myers also confirmed that X-Stream had signed-up an additional 4,000 users because of the offer. Erol Ziya, a spokesman for the pressure group Campaign for Unmetered Telecommunications (CUT), welcomed the news although was doubtful about the long term cost effectiveness of the free service. "I can't see how they can offer this indefinitely-surely they'd go broke. It's great to see an ISP offering an unmetered option to the consumer for once," he said. ®

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