Internet Investor: BT enters the fight to make you free

It looks as though Internet service providers will have to drop their fees - or pay the price
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Indy Lifestyle Online
SO ARE you still paying for your Internet access? How quaint! The virtual world runs on a different clock to the real world and it seems that the business model of the Internet Service Provider (ISP) is mutating again. British Telecom has decided to join in, this week launching BT Clickfree, its own free access service, and Tesco is offering its 10 million Clubcard holders free Internet access as well.

In the face of competition like this, it is going to be difficult for any of the approximately 300 ISPs in the UK to continue to charge you a monthly fee to access the Internet. So how do/will they make their money? Through a fraction of the money you spend on your telephone bill while hooked up, and through advertising, of course.

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FOR THOSE of us who do not fancy boiling a kettle while mountains of graphic-heavy banners and animations we do not actually want to look at download themselves, there is an answer. Webwasher washes your browser page whiter-than-white!

Siemens has made its WebWasher tool available to all Internet users as a freeware program. Business users are asked for a nominal licence payment, but the program is free to private users. It is a filter which supplements your Internet browser, and allows you to screen out material of no interest.

Alan Norman, marketing director at Siemens Computer Systems, commented: "WebWasher enables everyone to use the Internet more efficiently, without hindering the variety of information available. Users can choose which contents they wish to view and are not compelled to pay transmission fees for unwanted material."

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ONE OF the newer personal finance websites, MoneyeXtra, says it has attracted over 20,000 registered users in 8 weeks. MoneyeXtra claims this makes it one of the most successful launches of a personal finance site in the UK. Since launching in December, nearly 6,000 users have accessed the MoneyeXtra service to obtain comparative mortgage rates and product details and nearly 4,000 have run a search for the best deposit account.

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SOMETHING OF a milestone has also been passed by Charles Schwab Europe. The stockbroker's Internet trading service handled more than pounds 100m in trades in the latter half of last year, following the launch in June of its "second generation" online dealing service. That figure is allowing the brokerage to boast pole position in the entire UK e-commerce market.

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THE LATEST study by Internet analysts Fletcher Research shows that the sale of computer goods turned over pounds 168m in the whole of 1998. The next largest e-commerce markets were airline tickets (pounds 24m); books (pounds 15m) and music (pounds 8m).

WebWasher: www.siemens.de/servers/wwash/wwash_us.htm/

MoneyeXtra: www.moneyextra.com

Charles Schwab: http://www.schwab-worldwide.com/europe

Robin can be reached at RobinAmlot@aol.com

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