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French plan another Net strike for June

Unlimited fixed fee access sought for Europe

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Sunday 6 June is being targeted as a day for boycotting Internet access, in order to bring pressure to bear on telecom operators in Europe to reduce tariffs and introduce unlimited access for a fixed fee. The French have already staged strikes in December (usage down about 10 per cent) and January (but dubbed "un joli flop" by Liberation), and have linked up with 15 countries for the June boycott. Of all the Europeans, the French seem the most bellicose in the matter. The French argument is that telecom costs limit Internet access to "categories sociales elevees". As with Minitel, access is mostly from users' workplaces, because of telecom costs. France Telecom claimed in December, through a question to Christian Pierret [secretary of state for industry] in the National Assembly, that for six hours access a month, France was about average in Europe at FF 144, and below Germany (FF172) and the UK (216FF), but above Italy (FF100) and the USA (FF116). As usual, such comparisons are rather meaningless, because the time of day and discount plans make the truth more complex. Laurent Fabius, president of the National Assembly, noted that it was not unusual for surfers (called internautes in France) to spend 6 to 7 hours a week online and to receive a monthly phone bill of 2,000 to 4,000 francs, which he thought rather high. Fabius thinks 60 centimes/minute would be more reasonable. French efforts are spearheaded by Internet Moins Cher, with UK liaison through the Campaign for Unmetered Telecommunications (CUT). It seems that cable operators, at least in some countries, hold the trump card that may force the telecom operators to introduce fixed charges for Internet access. ®

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