AOL UK yesterday announced the extension to all comers of its unmetered internet access package – hitherto confined to existing members – without delays or restrictions.

First introduced two months ago [WAMN: 20-Sep-00], the flat-rate service covers all internet charges including telephone links. AOL claims that "hundreds of thousands" of members have taken up the service, although it is coy about the exact number.

The concept of unmetered access is not new in the UK – and other ISPs have preceded AOL into what proved to be a minefield. Several suffered panic attacks when subscribers took the term 'umetered access' literally and stayed online for hours; these undesirables were promptly and unceremoniously evicted from the service.

Among the 'unmetered access' ISPs that subsequently introduced usage restrictions are Breathe, Libertysurf, WorldOnline and FreeServe. One – Altavista UK – went as far as promoting a phantom unmetered service that existed only in the imagination of its marketing department.

AOL’s latest package offers surfers three options:

* Unmetered access - £14.99 buys unmetered web access 24-hours daily, 365-days a year. The first month is free.

* Metered tariff - £9.99 allows access at a special low phone rate of one penny per minute.

* Light-user tariff - £4.99 buys three free hours every month; further access costs 3.9p per minute or £2.35 an hour.

Says AOL UK managing director Karen Thomson: "Today marks an historic turning point for the interactive medium in this country, as we … are fulfilling our pledge to 'Stop the Clock' for UK consumers."

News source: BBC Online Business News (UK)