Select Committee on European Union Minutes of Evidence

Annex A

All-inclusive Internet access schemes in Europe

  BT introduced SurfTime at the start of June and it is intended to compliment the existing ISP facilities available to many of its customers. SurfTime gives customers two options for Internet usage: an off-peak package (SurfTime Off-peak) that is intended for weekend and night-time access and a package that allows 24 hour access for a flat monthly fee (SurfTime Anytime). Customers do not have to connect through BT's own ISP, BT Internet, but they can also take advantage of SurfTime through their own ISP if it has joined the SurfTime scheme. At the moment the number of ISPs joining SurfTime is limited and furthermore, of the ISPs that are affiliated to the scheme, not all of them are affiliated to the "SurfTime Anytime" package and the "SurfTime Off-peak" package. This could be quite confusing for the average consumer. Even BT Internet itself does not appear to offer its customers the option of using the Anytime option. The onus is on the customer to find out if his ISP supports BT SurfTime.

  Germany is the only other country in the survey where the incumbent operator is offering a flat rate package for dial-up users. T-Online is the largest ISP in Germany and is part of Deutsche Telekom. "T-Online flat rate" offers 24-hour access for a fixed monthly fee and like BT's offering, it was launched in June 2000.

  It is surprising that the incumbent operators of the other countries in the survey do not yet offer flat services but it is clearly on the way. Spanish operator, Telefonica, announced at the end of June that it will be offering an off-peak flat rate option in the fourth quarter of 2000 (probably November for Ptas 2,750/? 16.53). At the moment Italy and France rely more upon Internet access plans and discount schemes that bundle minutes with the monthly subscription rather than offering a flat rate service. France Telecom's Wanadoo ISP offers a series of subscriptions with inclusive minutes in its "Integral" range of products. Telecom Italia has introduced a discount scheme which, as well as offering domestic calls at no extra charge, bundles 20 hours of Internet access as well (Teleconomy No Stop). However, with the surge in competition in the Internet market in Italy, including the launch of flat rate voice schemes by competitors such as Infostrada, it may not be long before Telecom Italia itself launches flat rate services.

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