Online competition

Within the next month CompuServe, the online giant, will face two new rivals - UK Online and, if the US Justice Department allows it, the Microsoft Network.

To prepare its defences, it has announced a simpler and - it claims - cheaper pricing structure. Instead of offering a handful of free "basic" services and lots of charged-for "extended" services, from 10 September CompuServe will include five hours' use of most of its services in the pounds 9.95 monthly fee. Additional use will cost pounds 1.85 an hour, instead of the pounds 3 charged now for extended services. There is also a new scheme for heavy users.

Cut off the Net

There's bad news for Internet users who get offpeak free-phone access via Nynex Cablecomms. Bill Unsworth, managing director of U-NET, an access provider covering Liverpool and Manchester, tells us: "Nynex has put in writing that Nynex will not apply its free local call scheme to Internet access providers in the future and has said it will not apply to U-NET."

The cable company has confirmed this. "Some of the local calls made from modems last 12 to 14 hours," says a spokesman. "This causes problems with the switch system." He says Nynex will be talking to other Internet providers and might introduce a special tariff.

Other service providers that use Nynex links include Pavilion and Mistral in Brighton and Aladdin in Portsmouth. There are no signs that other cable companies offering free offpeak access - such as Videotron in London and Southampton, and Diamond in Nottingham - will follow Nynex's lead.

Commercial breakthrough

Following our piece about a film production link-up between Hollywood and Soho, we hear of a service - called PostProof - that will enable advertisers to check up on production of TV ads wherever they are being made and make amendments instantly. PostProof uses BT-operated ISDN lines to transmit digital sound and data. It has been developed by the systems company Control Data, software developer 4-Sight and hardware company Radius.

The Network pages can be contacted at