RealTime IT News

BT Launches Free Internet Access Service

British Telecom has become the latest entrant into the growing band of ISPs in the UK providing free access to the Internet.

Having watched the runaway success of Dixons' Freeserve, which now claims over a million members, BT has launched BT ClickFree--the first service of its kind to require no user registration.

One source of revenue for BT will come from its partnership with Value Direct, giving ClickFree users quick access to online shopping. BT said that they will be able to purchase a range of goods at lower prices than those at "any other access service or traditional high street retailer." BT does not mention the electronic retail chain Dixons by name, but its competitive stance is clear.

"BT has introduced ClickFree in response to customer demand for a free service combining reliability and the quality of service which they have come to expect from BT," said John Swingewood, BTs director of Internet and multimedia.

"This is a positive and logical move for BT and its customers. We will continue to respond to our customers and to develop ClickFree to make it the most competitive service on the market. Our deal with Value Direct means that we have gone even further than just free Internet access. BT ClickFree users will be able to shop online for a range of electrical goods and obtain greater discounts which are not available through other Internet access services."

Swingewood also defended the much-criticised Click+ service.

"BTs existing pay-as-you-go service, BT Click+, has already been praised for its simplicity and it has continually performed well in benchmarking tests by industry analysts."

Among the features of BT ClickFree will be information and entertainment content from Excite, together with BT's own free e=mail address service, talk21. BT plans a major upgrade of talk21 to POP3 in March to allow users to read and write their e-mail offline.

BT will charge 50 pence per minute for use of its ClickFree helpline--on a par with the reduced rates now being offered by Freeserve. BT says that existing Click+ customers can upgrade to ClickFree via the Click+ homepage.

To become a ClickFree user, customers need only visit www.btclickfree.com, or acquire the free CD, obtainable by calling Freefone 0800 731 7887 in the UK.