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UK users will get unmetered Net access within three months

Mysterious major telco (not BT, maybe C&W then) plans to unleash toll-free, meter-free service

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The UK will get toll-free access to the Internet within the next three months, The Register can confirm. Conservative MP Ian Bruce said this afternoon that telcos are working on a service that would give users access to a single toll-free number of their choice. Although users would have to pay a premium for this service -- a flat-rate fee -- it would mean they could use the number for as long as they liked without incurring additional line charges. Such a move would mean that millions of Net users in the UK could surf the Web without having to watch the meter. "Within three months [such a product] will be made available, " said Bruce, MP for South Dorset. The introduction of unmetered access to the Net is regarded by many as the biggest hurdle to the UK's future success in the wired world. Bruce has close ties with the Telecommunications Managers Association (TMA), an industry body made up of senior executives. His announcement follows a dinner with the TMA last night before today's debate in parliament. He wouldn't say exactly which company would offer the service first but he did confirm it was on its way. The revelation that the UK telecoms industry has finally buckled under consumer pressure came during an intervention in the House of Commons today. As Liberal Democrat Steve Webb was taking the government to task about the cost of Net access, Bruce intervened. He said there was no need for tighter regulation because the market was working. To prove his point he said that within weeks, a telco would introduce "fixed-rate unlimited access" to the Net. A spokesman for the Campaign for Unmetered telecommunications which campaigns for fairer telecoms charges welcomed the move. A spokesman for BT denied that it was the giant telco Bruce was talking about. BT was not about to introduce such a service, he said. ®

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