Freeserve dampens Observer speculation on toll-free times

Sticks to Register line

Reports that Freeserve is to announce on Thursday plans to introduce toll-free access to the Net may be a little premature. A spokesman for Freeserve reiterated what he told The Register last week that plans to introduce a low-cost inclusive Net package were "in advanced stages".

Asked whether they would be unveiled on Thursday, as reported by the Observer, when the company announces its latest batch of financial figures, a spokesman for the company said: "That's news to me."

If any unmetered offer were to be introduced it would surely involve Freeserve's telco partner, Energis. Last September the two companies joined forces to offer limited toll-free access to the Net. Freeserve users who spent more than £10 a month on calls routed via Energis received ten hours free online. This telephony/Internet model is being used by LineOne, NTL, CallNet et al and appears to be one way ISPs can take a lead in offering toll-free access. Energis won't comment on this potential development claiming it is a predominantly business-focused telco, not a retail outfit.

A spokesman for Freeserve was unable to say how people had signed up to the limited unmetered service. Freeserve's shares fell by more than third last week as it could only sit on its hands and watch as ISP after ISP announced plans to offer flat-rate access to the Net.

This morning shares fell again by some seven per cent. ®

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