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Battle for hearts and minds of Net users set to break out

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The UK could be about to become embroiled in bloody battle for ISP supremacy following the official launch today of screaming.net. The service -- a joint venture between rival electrical retailer, Tempo, and LocalTel, an independent Surrey-based service provider for BT -- is to compete directly with the phenomenally successful Dixons Freeserve. Pulling no punches, Michael Kraftman, Tempo deputy chairman, said he was gunning for existing Freeserve customers. And the offer of toll free dial-up access during evening and weekends could prove too much for users eager to cut the cost of Net access. If it lives up to the hype and delivers a quality service at a fraction of the price, it could lead to a mass desertion of Freeserve subscribers. "We think screaming.net will actually affect the psychology of Internet use in Britain," said Kraftman. "The whole psychology of getting onto the Net will change." Indeed it could, if the offer of free phone calls rings true, but for that to happen users will have to switch to LocalTel. Whether people are prepared to switch carriers -- even with the added incentive of 10 per cent discount on all telephone calls (except calls to mobiles) -- is another matter. But for one campaign group that is lobbying for the introduction of US-style unmetered telecomms charges, it is a start. "Tempo and LocalTel… have made a bold step which, for once, takes account of what telecommunications users in this country want," said Alastair Scott, of the Campaign for Unmetered Telecommunications (CUT). "At last, for some of the time, the ticking of the clock and the ratcheting up of the bill will no longer be an issue; screaming.net tackles the principal barrier to Internet access in this country, which is open-ended telecommunications charges." ®

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