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AOL boss hits out at telco industry

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The UK economy will suffer long term damage unless the country changes its policy towards charging Net users for every second they spend online. Andreas Schmidt, AOL Europe's president and CEO, delivered this now well-worn message yesterday as part of his keynote speech at the Jupiter Consumer Online Forum in London. He used the occasion to call on all business leaders to unite behind the company's campaign against the high cost of metered Internet telephone calls in the UK. And he said that the continuing low levels of Net usage in the UK undermined the government's vision of the country being at the centre of the European e-commerce revolution. Schmidt said: "If you let consumers stay online as long as they want, you will turn the Internet into a consumer mass medium -- where people are comfortable about buying online. "If you leave the clock ticking, the e-commerce revolution will not happen. Who would buy goods on a high street where shoppers were charged for every minute they spent looking through shop windows and browsing the shelves? "Industry, government and regulators must unite to 'stop the clock' -- to end metered telephone access charges", he said. "Our campaign has to succeed. If it doesn't, the Internet will never become a true mass medium in Europe, and the e-commerce revolution Mr Blair is calling for will simply not happen." If his final words have a hint of desperation about them, it may be because AOL is feeling the pressure from the competitive threat posed by the wide variety of subscription-free ISPs. Today, representatives of the Campaign for Unmetered Telecommunication (CUT) meet e-commerce minister Patricia Hewitt to bend her ear about the cost of Net access in the UK. ®

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