The UK’s biggest cable telephony company, NTL, has announced a subscription-free, unmetered Internet-access service.

The move follows href="">yesterday’s announcement by US search-engine AltaVista that it will provide free access from May.

NTL’s offer - live from April 17 - is open to everyone, not just current customers and those within its cable areas. Subscribers must sign up to NTL’s telephone service and agree to spend at least £10 per month on telephone bills.

NTL boss Barclay Knapp says the company will make its money from the sale of related packages, such as digital TV services.

In related news, British Telecom has come under renewed pressure from government telecom-industry regulator Oftel to cut the cost of Internet access.

In a consultation document released yesterday, Oftel said competition was “developing slower than expected” and hinted at an extension of price controls after the price-control formula expires in July.

BT hit-out at the findings, with a spokesman claiming Oftel had “underestimated the level of competition”.

If BT contests Oftel’s decision, current price controls will continue until the disagreement is settled by the government’s Competition Commission.