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BBC free ISP blasted for stifling market development

Industry body cries foul over use of public money for Net service

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The BBC's launch of its subscription-free ISP, Freebeeb.net, has been branded anti-competitive and an abuse of public money. Industry leaders have rallied together to criticise the BBC and the government has come under fire for not intervening to stop the operation. BIPA, an alliance of major British Internet publishers including Associated New Media, Electronic Telegraph, News International, ITN and Capital Radio, said that Freebeeb will lead to "unacceptable distortions in the private sector". With more than a hundred subscription-free ISPs in the UK, BIPA claims there is simply no need for the BBC to throw its weight behind yet another one. Ajay Chowdhury, MD of LineOne, which is also part of BIPA, lashed out saying that the service could smother the commercial development of the Net in the UK. "I welcome any service that allows more people to make use of the fantastic resources of the Internet but I have serious concerns that this commercial service will be cross-promoted by the BBC which is publicly funded," he said. "This service threatens to stifle the proper commercial development of an important UK market. "What safeguards are in place that will prevent Freebeeb.net from being promoted on the multitude of non commercial sites available from the BBC? How can we be sure that BBC internal bias will not put Freebeeb.net in advantageous positions that commercially run operations cannot match?" he said. No one from Freebeeb.net was available for comment at press time. ®

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