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BT slashes SurfTime prices

But don't get carried away -- this is a wholesale announcement, Joe Punter ain't welcome

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BT has hit the panic button and introduced new rates for its discredited wholesale Internet service, SurfTime, in a bid to appear competitive. The move is in response to plans by AltaVista and NTL to introduce cheap flat-fee Net access within the next couple of months. Yesterday, a spokesman for BT was unmoved by the developments to cut Net access costs in Britain. This morning, the telco created a stir with claims that its SurfTime package will provide "choice in Internet access with no hidden charges". Which is true -- sort of. For in a throwaway line BT says: "Some ISPs may make further charges for use of their services and BT will provide optional billing services to ISPs." The truth is that if ISPs subscribe to this option they must forsake revenue they make from the interconnect charge. They would also have to ditch existing relationships with their current telcos. It would be up to ISPs to then attempt to make up that revenue elsewhere, by advertising, ecommerce... or by levying some additional charge on top of BT's fee for its product. This is certainly one scenario that could happen if BT's revised SurfTime proposals remain unchallenged. BT, of course, maintains that ISP's could charge what they liked - they could even offer the service for less that the figures quoted today. And if consumers do get uppity because their ISPs are charging more than what BT announced, the telco can throw up its hands and claim, in all honesty, that it has nothing to do with them. Undoubtedly it's clever manourvering on BT's part. The announcement has already been picked up by other media sources today but what has not been made clear is that this it is a wholesale announcement. The headlines suggest this will be the cost to the consumer - and you don't hear BT going out of its way to put anybody right. BT's new wholesale SurfTime offering as announced today is as follows: Residential customers who are occasional Net users Charges are £9.26 per month for line rental (which can also be used for telephone calls) plus 1p per minute during the day, 0.6p per minute in the evening and 0.5p per minute at the weekend. (All prices include VAT). Residential customers who are evening and weekend Net users At £15.25 per month, unmetered Internet usage is available every evening and all weekend, and customers also receive up to 80 minutes of inclusive voice calls. If the Net is accessed during the daytime, charges are 1p per minute. In the US, typical customers with similar Internet usage patterns would pay around £5 per month more in total. With BT Together, customers will pay £17.98 per month for unmetered Internet usage plus up to 200 minutes of inclusive voice calls. (All prices inc. VAT). "Round the clock" residential and business Net users At £29.25 per month (inc. VAT) for residential customers and £29.74 per month (ex. VAT) for business customers, unmetered Internet usage is available seven days per week and 24 hours per day. For consumers, such charges are directly comparable to US prices and for business customers BT believes its charges are significantly lower than those typical in the US. A spokesman for BT said today that the initial feedback from ISPs had been "very positive". ® Related Stories BT Surftime hits wipe out BT Internet is cheaper than BT Surftime BT intros unmetered Net access

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