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RealTime IT News

AOL UK Stops Clock With Unmetered Access

[London, ENGLAND] In what will be seen as the culmination of its "Stop the Clock" campaign, AOL UK has announced unmetered Internet access in a cautiously phased U.K. roll-out.

First to get the new flat-fee service will be AOL's longest-standing customers who can switch their accounts immediately. Next will be other customers who joined AOL before Tuesday, when the announcement was made.

As for all those Internet aficionados who until now have ignored AOL in favor of highly-rated vanilla ISPs like Demon Internet or Madasafish, AOL says they will be able to join "as soon as possible" after existing members have had their fill.

The new service will cost all users £14.99 (US $21) per month, including Internet access and telephone connection charges.

Karen Thomson, managing director of AOL UK, called the new unmetered price plan "a watershed event for consumers," and said it would transform the interactive medium into a true mass-market phenomenon in the U.K.

"We promised more than a year ago that we would fight to 'Stop The Clock' of metered Internet telephone costs charged by the minute. We are now delighted to give our members what they want -- genuine and sustainable flat-rate Internet access," said Thomson.

To avoid too much criticism from all those potential users who have been left out in the cold because they are not existing members, AOL UK is offering a free 24-hour trial followed by its "AOL Off-Peak, All the Time" service. This costs £9.99 (US $14) a month and one penny per minute, 24 hours a day.

"We will work to offer these new members AOL Flat Rate in the near future, as the U.K.'s telecommunications providers bring more and more flat-rate network capacity online in the coming weeks," said Thomson.

AOL UK has been a vigorous supporter of unmetered access in the U.K., running a "Stop the Clock" campaign to put pressure on BT to make its infrastructure available at reasonable cost. In May, U.K. regulator Oftel obliged BT to offer a flat-rate tariff to its competitors, paving the way for AOL's new service.

There must still be a question mark over AOL's ability to provide unmetered access to all-comers in the current market. AltaVista backed out when the figures did not stack up, and many other companies have quietly allowed start-dates to slip by without any starts.

Nonetheless, AOL's announcement is surely the most promising development so far in the U.K.'s longest-running Internet access saga.