NTL Announces Flat Rate Net Access Plan for U.K.

LONDON (03/07/2000) - Communications group NTL Inc. became the second U.S. company in two days to announce ground-breaking changes to U.K. Internet access, with today's announcement that it will offer free Internet access to U.K. users beginning April 17.

Through it's U.K. telecommunications division, NTL Group Ltd., the company's ntlworld plan will offer free Internet access, including free ISP (Internet service provider) subscriptions -- and more significantly for the U.K., free call connections to customers who sign up for cable telephony service, NTL said today in a statement.

Yesterday, AltaVista Co. announced that it plans to offer flat-rate monthly Internet access, including toll-free calls, to U.K. customers who pay a yet to be determined set-up fee of between 30 pounds (US$47) and 50 pounds, as well as an annual charge of between 10 pounds and 20 pounds. That service is set to launch in three months. [See "AltaVista to Launch Toll-Free Net Access in U.K.

," Mar. 6.]

The announcements come hot on the heels of continued calls within the U.K.'s political and business establishment for lower Internet access fees. In his speech today to the Knowledge 2000 conference, U.K. Prime Minister, Tony Blair is expected to issue a challenge to the telecommunications industry to bring easy and inexpensive access throughout the U.K. in five years time.

Furthermore, according to various reports, including one by the British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC), Mr. Blair will call the NTL service a "significant new offer" for bringing Net access to the general public.

Last month, Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown caused a stir when he publically called on British Telecommunications PLC to move more quickly in lowering Internet access rates as well as moving ahead the July 1 deadline for unbundling the local phone network. [See "Report: EU to Challenge Net Phone Charges," Feb. 28.]It is widely believed U.K. citizens are shying away from using the Internet due to metered charges for voice and Internet access and that this in turn is keeping the Internet economy in the U.K. from blossoming.

The NTL plan will not bring flat fees for voice calls. It is for the company's U.K. residential telephony customers only, either those using its cable service or those using a plug-in adaptor to make calls over rival BT's network. These users must make a minimum of 10 pounds worth of voice calls with NTL per month, the company said.

The initial offer will be for Internet access via a PC or Apple Macintosh, with TV Internet access following soon after the April 17 launch, NTL said.

NTL, in Hook, England, can be contacted at +44 1256 751000, or at http://www.ntl.co.uk/. NTL's parent company, NTL Inc., in New York, can be contacted at +1-212-906-8440, or at http://www.ntl.com/.

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