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NTL's unmetered dial-up ISP, ntlworld, will no longer be free from the beginning of next year, the cableco has confirmed.

From February the service will cost existing users £5 a month for 24/7 unmetered net access, although this is extended until May for former Cable & Wireless customers.

New customers will have to pay £10 a month for the unmetered narrowband product.

A 1p-a-minute pay-as-you-go service will also be available.

The cableco has also stopped taking new customers until the launch of the new tariffs next year.

Some NTL customers have already vented their frustration at the price rise.

However, NTL maintains that it is still competitively priced compared to FRIACO-based unmetered services, which typically retail at around £15 a month.

A spokesman for NTL explained that more and more Internet services were moving to a subscription service.

Ntlworld's subscription free service was launched in April 2000 at a time when ISPs were scrambling over themselves to offer flat-fee Net access.

The move even won the backing of prime minister, Tony Blair.

NTL's announcement coincided with AltaVista UK's announcement that it too would be offering an unmetered service, although this venture never got off ground. ®

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