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BT Surftime hits wipe out

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BT has ditched part of its proposals to offer unmetered access to the Net because of fierce opposition and complaints from Britain's ISP industry. Far from the fireworks that accompanied the launch of BT Surftime in December, this latest announcement was sneaked out last week with no fanfare or hoopla. Surftime -- BT’s product for other ISPs to use as the basis for their own unmetered packages -- has found itself undercut by BT’s retail offering BT Internet. Obviously BT can’t sit back and let the likes of Telewest have it all their own way, but with Surftime priced at £35 per month and BT Internet now down to £9.99, Surftime has lost more than a little of its sheen. So, what to do? Time to kick Surftime into touch and bring out its replacement -- Surftime II. The launch of Surftime II -- the sequel -- suggests BT is in a spin over the whole issue of providing unmetered Net access to the industry. Alternatively, deliberate obfuscation and foot dragging would merely protect the status quo and its current revenue streams. BT claims Surftime II will "deliver the benefits of unmetered internet access to UK customers while simplifying the process of delivering them to customers and IPOs (Internet Protocol Operators) alike." But a spokesman for the ISP trade association, ISPA, said the proposals needed to be reviewed and that some areas still posed concerns. No one from BT was available for comment today. It's still unclear whether Surftime II will be any cheaper than the £35 a month currently being bandied around. Despite the setback, there is a more disturbing trend that threatens to upset the whole area of opening up BT's near-monopoly to competition. Plans to roll-out ADSL in Britain have been delayed due to technical problems; the launch of a wholesale product to allow ISPs to offer unmetered access have also been delayed. So will BT hit its July 2001 deadline to unbundle the local loop and open up Britain's telco market to real competition? Of course they will, of course they will... ® Related stories: BT intros unmetered Net access Autumn leaves will fall before ADSL rolls out in Britain

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