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UK Net access as cheap as US

Off-peak figures tell one story, while peak-time rates read like a Steven King novel

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It's just as cheap to access the Internet in the UK as it is in the US, according to a report just published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). People who use the Net during off-peak hours are on a par with their counterparts in the US, a fact that throws serious doubt on the arguments put forward by those people campaigning for cheaper access in the UK. According to OECD Internet Access Price Comparison, people in the UK who use the Net for 20 hours a month at off-peak times pay just $32.42 -- $2.76 less than their US counterparts. For 30 hours a month, UK Net users pay $40.86 -- just $4.62 more than in the US; and for 40 hours, Net users pay just $12.01 more -- or the equivalent of a couple of pints of warm beer and some pork scratchings. Unfortunately, the only reason why the two Net nations share any parity is because people in the UK have access to subscription-free ISPs. It is this -- and not because the UK benefits from cheap telephone calls -- that the OECD maintains has brought the overall cost of off-peak dial-up Net access on a par with the US. Focus on just the cost of dial-up access -- ignoring ISP charges -- and it becomes abundantly clear that Net users in the UK are paying a fortune to spend time online. For 20 hours a month at off-peak time people in the UK pay $32.42 in line rental and phone charges. In the US, it's just $13.23. For 40 hours a month British Net users pay $49.31. In the US, it's $15.35. Such disparities are nothing more than small change when the overall cost of peak-rate Net access is assessed. Twenty hours of peak rate access in the US costs $35.18 -- in the UK, that figure is $60.57. At 40 hours, UK Net users pay $105.61 a month compared to just $37.30 in the US. With such crippling charges there's little wonder why the UK lags so far behind the US in the e-conomy. Erol Ziya, spokesman for the Campaign for Unmetered Telecommunications (CUT), said the figures showed that the UK was not on a level playing field with US. "As the hours go up so the statistics get worse," he said. Commenting on the report a spokesman for BT said: "We feel our pricing packages are competitive. "The low penetration rates [of Net access in Britain, compared to other countries] are not solely down to call charges," he said. ®

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