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Over and out for CUT unmetered lobby group?

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Unmetered Net access has finally arrived in Britain. Time will only tell if this "revolution" is sustainable and delivers the quality of service necessary to help increase usage levels among Net users in the country. In fact, what happened over the last ten days or so could be described as a coup d'etat -- a new order imposing itself on the old, established regime. Few coups, though, are bloodless. Ludicrously high phone bills and having to constantly watch the clock every time you're online are two of the casualties of this revolution, but few people will mourn their exit. But there is another possible casualty that people should consider before skipping off to become high fliers of the Web set. The Campaign for Unmetered Telecommunications (CUT) has lobbied, fought, petitioned, cajoled, argued, demonstrated, and picketed for the Net access clock to be switched off. It has won the backing of major companies including AOL UK and Intel. It has taken its campaign to the very heart of Government meeting with the e-commerce minister, Patricia Hewitt, to make its case heart above the interests of near-monopolistic telcos. Staff at Oftel claim CUT has influenced policy-making at the winged watchdog. The activities of CUT was referred to during a debate on the cost of Net access in Parliament last summer, and its submission to a select committee was quoted at some length in a parliamentary report. In short, CUT has been a major driving force behind the adoption of unmetered access in Britain. But there is a concern that the organisation may soon dissolve. After all, it's achieved what it's set out to do. The eight people or so who have given up their spare time to run CUT could be forgiven for walking away in the knowledge of a job well done. And who could blame them? Except CUT now stands for much more than simply a one-issue group. Notwithstanding the fact that unmetered access has yet to work harmoniously in Britain; set aside all the problems of introducing broadband access; what CUT stands for is a vocal, intelligent and savvy group that represents the interests of all Net users in Britain. Well, it could. It has the contacts, influence and clout to be a powerful voice in shaping the development of the Net in Britain by representing the interests of grassroots users. That, though, would take even greater commitment from a group of people who originally set up CUT because of a dispute over cableco tariffs. Either that, or some of CUT's 400 or so members will have to come forward and take over the reins from CUT's founders. I'm aware it would be a massive undertaking. I just hope this tribute to CUT, in recognition of all its achieved, doesn't turn out to be its eulogy. ®

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