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The future of subscription-free Internet access in the UK is safe -- for the time being at least. After weeks of intense speculation that any decision by OFTEL could signal the end of the 'FreeServe phenomenon', the telecoms watchdog has decided to sit on its hands and do nothing. OFTEL is proposing that there should be no immediate change to current arrangements that allow ISPs to offer free access in return for a slice for the interconnect charge. OFTEL is also suggesting that companies should be able to offer customers different call charges to reflect the type of service on offer. This, OFTEL predicts, would help to stimulate competition and could lead to reduced charges for customers who want basic Internet access. "I believe our proposals strike the right balance between supporting the growth of Internet users and meeting the needs of the telephone operators," said David Edmonds, OFTEL's director general. "Internet service providers [should be able] to generate the funds necessary to allow additional investment in their respective networks to cope with growth. "ISPs and their supporting telephone networks should be able to vary the price they charge for a call to reflect the level of service they provide to their customers." ®

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