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Blair the e-vangelist gives boost to wired Britain

Read his speech while humming Land of Hope and Glory to get full effect

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Britain's E-Prime Minister, Tone-e e-Blair, wants everyone in Britain connected to the Net within the next five years. In a speech today he said: "Today I want to announce a new goal. I want Britain to aim for universal access to the Internet by 2005. "Making sure everyone has access to the Internet will both improve our competitiveness and reduce social exclusion," he said. But the speech will be remembered for Mr e-Blair's grasp of the whole issue of unmetered Net access in Britain. "Gordon Brown has challenged the industry to get Internet access prices down," he said. "Ministers have been working with Oftel and the telecommunications industry to overcome that barrier. "And we're seeing change. New proposals for unmetered access have been announced by two major companies - BT and Telewest. As we've seen this week, Altavista is now offering Internet access on the basis of relatively low subscriptions. "I'm pleased to see this progress. Our goal must be to see prices comparable with anywhere in the world - including the USA. "And today there is a new and further step forward. Another major cable company, NTL, is announcing a new offer -- the chance for their customers to use the Internet entirely for free. "I'm sure that others, including BT, are now ready to break new ground themselves. "Obviously, I am not endorsing any of these companies' products. Different products will suit different customers. But the key point is that we are pursuing policies to get prices down. Giving people a choice. Putting consumers first. "And I'm delighted to say this. The Americans have been predicting entirely free Internet access for a while. But Britain has got there first," he said. No doubt The Register's US readers will have a view on that. ®

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