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BT's cheap Net access deal is not so cheap

This deal is so good you'd be better off with ADSL. Nice one BT

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BT is set to offer cut-price Net access to key public organisations as part of its bid to get Britain online. Libraries, Citizens Advice Bureaux and further education colleges have been earmarked to receive discounts on Net access charges of up to 50 per cent as part of the initiative. It builds on the Schools Internet Caller scheme launched by BT last year, which enables schools to gain Net access at a fixed cost. According to a BT spokesman, 14,000 schools have signed up to the scheme so far. It means they can get unlimited daytime access to the Internet for £600 a year over an ordinary phone line, or £1,200 a year for a higher speed ISDN line with free connection. Evening charges start at £150 a year for ordinary lines and £300 for ISDN. No doubt BT's latest announcement will be welcomed by this group of cash-strapped organisations and the monster telco will be lauded for putting the general public ahead of profit. But the offer -- announced by the Prime Minister Tony Blair as he addressed delegates at the Confederation of British Industry's annual conference in Birmingham today -- is not all it seems. Checkout the small print and BT's philanthropic gesture works out more expensive than broadband ADSL access. The cost of daytime unmetered dial-up access to the Net now being offered to these worthy public organisations -- £600 a year -- is the same as BT is currently charging people for always-on high speed ADSL access as part of it pre-rollout trial. Add on its night time tariff -- £150 a year -- and gaining ordinary 24/7 unmetered access to the Net costs £62.50 a month. Pre-trial ADSL access is currently positioned at £49.99 a month -- the price that is widely being touted as the figure consumers will have to pay for ADSL access when it goes live in spring next year. So libraries, FE colleges, consumer help groups and schools will have to decide whether they want to pay more than £60 a month for traditional super slow dial-up up access -- or £50 a month for broadband ADSL access come the spring. Of course, the proposals still have to be approved by the regulator, Oftel, but with such a stage-managed high-profile public announcement it seems unlikely to receive any opposition from the watchdog. It's up to the public organisations to read the small print and ensure they don't get hoodwinked by BT's latest wheeze. ®

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