- The UK Internet market could be set for a massive shake-up as the UK's largest electrical retailer, the Dixons Group, this morning announced the launch of a service offering free access to the internet, worth as much as £180 a year to subscribers.
Freeserve will charge no subscription fees and no hourly on-line charge. It is available from tomorrow to anyone who walks into a Dixons Group store, picks up a CD-Rom and loads the software. All Freeserve customers have to pay for their internet usage is the local telephone call rate.
The Dixons announcement is likely to draw a quick response from rival internet access suppliers, which include telecoms companies like BT and Cable & Wireless Communications as well as specialists such as Demon and high street names such Tesco and Abbey National, which have both recently launched into the internet access market.
The Dixons service does require registration and subscription but eveything is free, including a full email account. In addition, the www.freeserve.net site will offer original UK content including news, sport and weather.
John Clare, Dixons' chief executive officer, said: "The Dixons Group has been looking closely at the internet for the last 18 months. Until now, it has not been possible to provide internet access to consumers without charging £10 to £15 a month. We felt that fell short of the compelling customer offer Dixons is used to delivering."
The monthly Internet Service Provider charge, along with the local rate telephone charges, have stunted UK internet growth. In the US, while most users pay monthly connection charges, local telephone calls are free.
A recent KPMG report, Europe Gets Wired, stated that the cost of connecting to and using the net played a significant role in driving or inhibiting take up.
Dixons' decision also comes at a time when the number of UK net users accessing from home is just beginning to outweigh those accessing from work. Recent estimates put the balance at 60-40 in favour of home access. The UK currently has 1.2 million net users
The CD Roms will be available from all Dixons stores which include Dixons, Currys, the Link and PC World.