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Rival ISPs rubbish BT Broadband Basic

£20 more expensive, say Freeserve, Tiscali, et al

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The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

BT's rivals have been quick to rubbish its new sub-£20 offer for a capped broadband service by pointing out that BT Broadband Basic is just as expensive as the monster telco's other no-frills offer.

Although BT Broadband Basic costs £19.99 a month, the £80 up-front set-up cost means that for the first year punters will be forced to cough up a few pennies short of £320 for the service.

Subscribing to its full no-frills, access only service, BT Broadband, (£27 a month, no set-up or modem charges) means that in the first year punters pay £324 - just a few quid more.

Other ISPs which offer full 512k broadband services with no usage caps say that - with installation and hardware costs thrown in as part of their deals - they are even cheaper.

A spokeswoman for Freeserve (where 512k currently costs £15.99 a month for the first three months, £27.99 thereafter plus free modem and activation: total first year cost £300) told The Register: "We welcome any move to drive the UK broadband market but we don't quite understand BT's pricing, given that this offer is only six quid cheaper than their current offer and Freeserve is a whole twenty quid cheaper a year for a full service."

Likewise, a spokeswoman for Tiscali (currently costs £24.99 a month plus free modem and activation: total first year cost £300) said: "We're happy that BT is recognising that people want cheap broadband. But our full service is still £20 a year cheaper and there is no capping."

A spokesman for AOL said: "In theory, this is exactly the kind of product innovation we believe would be possible for all service providers if BT, or focused regulation, enabled greater wholesale broadband competition.

"In practice, because of the substantial up front charges this product is virtually the same total cost as BT Retail's original service over the first year - and more than many rivals - but with the additional severe restrictions on usage."

Sheffield-based PlusNet couldn't resist having a dig as well. It's already been offering its own sub-£20 entry-level 512k broadband product (Home Surf) for the last 20 months.

Said Marco Potesta, marketing director: "...it is surprising that BT are claiming to take the lead on a sub-£20 product, especially when everyone is aware of each others' product offerings - and we have been offering Home Surf for almost two years.

"It's encouraging to see someone else joining us in selling a true broadband product at under £20 and not just promoting their low-speed, low-priced broadband products, the emphasis on which only serves to confuse and take the whole market in the wrong direction."

BT Openworld MD Duncan Ingram denied that the telco was trying to mislead people, insisting that the different prices were set out clearly for everyone to see. Many ISPs use a range of special offers to help bring down the cost of their services, he argued.

"£19.99 is a sustainable price - it is a breakthrough for a half meg service," he told us. And he didn't rule out special offers for the 'Basic' service at some time in the future.

Today, Telewest launched a 256k cable service (£17.99 a month) to tempt customers who are wary of switching to broadband. ®

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