Freeserve jumps on ‘free’ Net access bandwagon

Freeserve, the UK’s first free Internet access provider, has announced the launch of its own version of unmetered access, jumping on a bandwagon set in motion by search engine rival AltaVista.

The company, which is 80 per cent owned by electrical retailer Dixons, will from May offer unmetered access at off-peak times for &£6.99 a month to customers who access the service through a BT line.

In a separate offer, it is launching unrestricted free access with telecoms company Energis for &£10 a month, provided customers spend &£10 each month on standard telephone calls.

The offers bring Freeserve into line with rivals LineOne, NTL, Virgin Net, BT Surftime and CallNet, all of which have announced unmetered deals following AltaVista’s announcement last week that it would offer unmetered access for just &£30 to &£50 a year.

AltaVista has been criticised by rivals, who say the service has yet to be launched and doubt its claims that it can be sustained through advertising revenue alone.

However, Alta Vista’s announcement caused Freeserve’s rocketing share price to plummet by 40 per cent from a high of 977 pence per share. At 3pm on Tuesday this week, the share price had recovered 10.6 per cent to 640 pence, following Freeserve’s announcement of its new initiative.

Freeserve chief executive John Pluthero says: “The no-catch, fixed price offer applicable to 85 per cent of our users on BT provides the clarity and simplicity customers demand.”

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