Hours after the BBC announced plans on Thursday to join Britain's free ISPs, the broadcaster met a wave of criticism.

First in line was the British Internet Publishers Alliance, which accused the BBC's planned Freebeeb.net service of having an unfair advantage. The chairman of BIPA, Frank Rogers, predicted that Freebeeb would quickly come to dominate the market through cross-promotion with its numerous other online properties.

Those concerns were echoed by the London Internet Exchange, another watchdog group, which argued that as a publicly subsidized institution, the BBC shouldn't be in the business of putting other companies in the poorhouse.

Unsurprisingly, plenty of competing free ISPs wagged their fingers at the broadcaster, too.

The BBC, meanwhile, played off the concerns with aplomb. A spokesman, who asked not to be named, explained that Freebeeb was a venture of its commercial arm, and would receive no revenue from license payers. "It's entirely commercial," he insisted. "Not publicly funded."

Freebeeb will be run by BBC Worldwide, which also runs Beeb.com, one of the most popular Web sites in Britain. The company said it would earn money from the free Internet service in much the way its competitors do, through a combination of advertising, and kickbacks from the phone company.

Unlike in the US, where most customers pay a flat rate for local calls, phone customers in the UK must pay by the minute, with peak-period charges of about 5 pence per minute. With the arrival of the Internet, and amid BT's ongoing reluctance to offer its customers flat-rate access, a horde of free ISPs appeared on the scene. These ISPs can offer consumers access to the Internet because they take a cut of BT's profits from the phone charges, that mount while users are online.

BBC executives said Friday that although they would use no public funds to promote or market the service, any profits derived from Freebeeb would be funneled back into the broadcasting company.

Freebeeb Director Rupert Miles spent part of the day denying that the move into the free ISP market was intended to fatten the BBC's Web offerings for a float on the stock market.
Hours after the BBC announced plans on Thursday to join Britain's free ISPs, the broadcaster met a wave of criticism.

First in line was the British Internet Publishers Alliance, which accused the BBC's planned Freebeeb.net service of having an unfair advantage. The chairman of BIPA, Frank Rogers, predicted that Freebeeb would quickly come to dominate the market through cross-promotion with its numerous other online properties.

Those concerns were echoed by the London Internet Exchange, another watchdog group, which argued that as a publicly subsidized institution, the BBC shouldn't be in the business of putting other companies in the poorhouse.

Unsurprisingly, plenty of competing free ISPs wagged their fingers at the broadcaster, too.

The BBC, meanwhile, played off the concerns with aplomb. A spokesman, who asked not to be named, explained that Freebeeb was a venture of its commercial arm, and would receive no revenue from license payers. "It's entirely commercial," he insisted. "Not publicly funded."

Freebeeb will be run by BBC Worldwide, which also runs Beeb.com, one of the most popular Web sites in Britain. The company said it would earn money from the free Internet service in much the way its competitors do, through a combination of advertising, and kickbacks from the phone company.

Unlike in the US, where most customers pay a flat rate for local calls, phone customers in the UK must pay by the minute, with peak-period charges of about 5 pence per minute. With the arrival of the Internet, and amid BT's ongoing reluctance to offer its customers flat-rate access, a horde of free ISPs appeared on the scene. These ISPs can offer consumers access to the Internet because they take a cut of BT's profits from the phone charges, that mount while users are online.

BBC executives said Friday that although they would use no public funds to promote or market the service, any profits derived from Freebeeb would be funneled back into the broadcasting company.

Freebeeb Director Rupert Miles spent part of the day denying that the move into the free ISP market was intended to fatten the BBC's Web offerings for a float on the stock market.