From tomorrow, teleco operators will be obliged to include internet access services in standard telephone packages to comply with terms set by industry watchdog Oftel.

Under the guidelines, both BT and main rival Kingston Communications must provide customers with a minimum rate of internet access. If either company fails to do so, customers will be able to demand the telcos act quickly to fix the problem.

The new benchmark connection speed of 28.8Kbps (kilobits per second) for narrowband dialup will replace the previous requirement of just 2.4Kbps.

"Under new EC legislation, universal service requires provision of a narrowband connection capable of 'functional internet access'," said David Edmonds, director general of telecommunications at Oftel.

"This term has not been defined in the Directive. However, because of the growing importance of the internet, Oftel has taken a major step forward in setting a benchmark of 28.8Kbps," added Edmonds. "This is significantly faster than the previous requirement and will lead to real improvements in connection speeds for many consumers."

Other requirements include installation of telephone lines within a reasonable time, uniform pricing and reduced-rate packages for customers on low incomes.

A list if conditions can be found here.