RealTime IT News

Spaniards Scramble for InfoVia Alternatives

At the doorstep of next week's telecommunications privatization, Spanish Net users scramble for alternatives to InfoVia, their universal Internet access ramp.

Telefonica de Espaa will suspend this service at midnight, Dec. 1. This complies with the March 12 decision by Spain's Telecommunications Market Commission to officially liberalize the sector on that date.

InfoVia started as a service of Telefonica, the state telephone monopoly. By dialing "055" users anywhere in Spain could dial in to the national intranet for less than the cost of a local call. Whether living in Madrid or some isolated village, they paid the same price to log onto the Internet by using InfoVia and an Internet service provider anywhere in Spain.

InfoVia will be replaced by alternative services offering access at the cost of a local call. ISPs have rushed to inform their subscribers on what to do before the 055 number goes dead in December.

If users "try to log on after Dec. 1 by using '055' the connection won't be made," said Susana Monllor Rico, Customer Service Coordinator for CTV, an ISP with several national nodes of its own. "In that case (they'll) only be able to change it by making a phone call."

CTV, Telefonica's online division and others are urging subscribers to make the necessary configuration changes well before next week's deadline, to "avoid possibly flooding" their telephone lines.

Subscribers to small ISPs without nodes nationwide will not have to make long distance phone calls.

Telefonica, by way of the 140 nodes on its IP Network, will be offering InfoVia Plus--access to an Internet backbone based on speeds of 34 Mbps and 155 Mbps. In cases where node access means a long distance call, users can call a special number and be charged at local rates.

Despite a nascent string of alternative nodes, users of CTV and other ISPs will at times be bound by cost and a lack of alternatives to use InfoVia Plus. Access to InfoVia plus requires a connection kit available only for use on PCs.

Foreign online services like Compuserve and America Online already have Spanish access numbers, with usage surcharges at several dollars per hour of online time--in addition to local phone charges. These services are accessible without surcharges, via Spanish servers and a TCP/IP connection.