Oftel, the government's telecommunications watchdog, has told BT it must allow other operators to supply unmetered Internet access over its local network.

The ruling, announced on Friday, resolves a dispute between BT and MCI Worldcom, which arose when BT refused to offer WorldCom wholesale unmetered internet access. Under Oftel's Direction, BT must agree to offer wholesale unmetered access to MCI WorldCom, and other operators who request it, by no later than June 1, 2000.

The decision will open up BT's unmetered Internet access service, known as Surftime, to competition from other operators. Surftime is due to be launched on June 1.

David Edmonds, director general of telecommunications, said: "Although the UK has some of the cheapest Internet access on offer for residential consumers, Oftel wants to see more low-cost Internet access available, with a choice of tariff packages. We have been working to encourage a range of tariffs, including unmetered access for heavy users of the Internet."

A copy of Oftel's Direction can be found on the organization's Web site.