Telstra denies its in free-fall

The supposed free offer, reported yesterday, would have fallen just one week after the telco announced it would lower Big Pond prices in an attempt to attract more than one million subscribers by June. However, Telstra dismissed the offer today as "rumours and speculation" stemming from one unique community program in which the telco "discussed" offering free ISP access to residents of the small Victorian town of Stonnington.

A Telstra spokesperson said the telco did not presently consider free ISP access a commercially viable business initiative.

Meanwhile, three Australian ISPs offering free Web access said they would welcome any free-ISP offer from Telstra.

David Tam, managing director for ISP GoConnect, said it was "disappointing" to learn that reports of Telstra's free offer were false. "It would help us. It would confirm the view we have always had that the Internet should be free." He said his company would have welcomed competition from Telstra, which he said would indirectly attract more subscribers to GoConnect.

Bill Lang, FreeOnline's co-founder and executive director, agreed that free Internet access from Telstra would attract more subscribers to his company. Before the telco denied it was considering the offer, Lang said, "It's great news for us. It will give us a tremendous boost of growth."

GlobalFreeway's managing director, Rakesh Kumar, said in a statement this afternoon his company would have remained "completely confident" its business would not be threatened by free Internet access from Telstra.

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