UK has cheapest Internet access

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The Independent Online

Britain is now the cheapest place in the world to get Internet access - cheaper even than the United States. Thousands of Britons took full advantage last weekend of a scheme allowing them to surf the Net free via an 0800 freephone number, with no subscription fee. And thousands more overwhelmed the call centre, trying to sign up for the service.

Britain is now the cheapest place in the world to get Internet access - cheaper even than the United States. Thousands of Britons took full advantage last weekend of a scheme allowing them to surf the Net free via an 0800 freephone number, with no subscription fee. And thousands more overwhelmed the call centre, trying to sign up for the service.

Callnet, the international telecoms partnership thatlaunched the service last Monday, said yesterday that its initial plans to sign up 200,000 users by Christmas now appear "conservative. We could see up to one million people registered with us by Christmas if the present rate is sustained," said a spokesman, Chris Klopper.

That would make the company a direct rival to Freeserve, the first subscription-free - but not freephone - Internet service, which quickly forced most other Internet service pro-viders (ISPs) to scrap fees.Callnetwill put further pressure onISPs to cut costs.

However, it will be expensive.Just 100,000 people using the service on an almost constant basis would cost up to £1m in call charges daily. Mr Klopper insisted that Callnet is prepared for that - it sees the ISP as a loss-leader for its voice telephone service.

Callnet has introduced an online signup at www.callnet0800.com to try to ease the pressure on its operators. Those without an Internet account can call 0800 058 0800.

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