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BTopenworld is to cut the number of hours its Internet users are allowed to stay online in what is being regarded as a move to cajole users to upgrade to broadband.

From 5 June punters on the ISP's narrowband unmetered AnyTime and Surftime packages will have their daily online allowance cut from 16 hours to 12 hours a day.

This is on top a reduction in usage announced last year.

What's more, this latest lowering of usage comes just as BTopenworld increased the cost of its AnyTime service by £1 month.

The move has outraged some users who feel they are paying more for a worse service.

Said one reader: "When BTopenworld introduced the 16 hour thing I wasn't too worried. When they put up the price I was mildly annoyed. But this really takes the piss.

"I pay the premium for a flat-rate service for a reason - I want to use the Internet as much as I want," he said.

BT sent out an email last night telling "heavy users" (other users will be told later) of the planned changes.

BTo declined to say exactly how many people it targeted although it's estimated the figure could run into many thousands.

It said: "We currently maintain the quality of our unmetered internet access service
for the majority of customers by restricting daily usage under our current terms and conditions.

"However, some customers are now going online for long periods of time which makes it difficult to maintain quality at a reasonable price.

"We therefore intend to introduce a lower daily use limit - down from 16 hours to 12 hours in any given 24-hour period. This change will take effect from 5th June 2002," it said.

Instead of warning people that they face being booted off the service if they breach these new lower levels, BTo has instead offered a £90 sweetener for punters to upgrade to its ADSL service.

The offer extends to the first 5,000 to register before the end of June.

However, some regard the move as a ploy by BTo to migrate more people onto its more expensive ADSL service.

BT has denied this and maintains it's done this for reasons of "conscientious network management". ®

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