NTL has launched its business customer broadband service at a cost of £90 per month, pitching it lower than cable competitor Telewest and phone line broadband provider BTopenworld.

But these business broadband fees have been slammed by PC Advisor readers.

ISP Freeserve raised its monthly consumer prices to a laughable £49.99 as a protest to Oftel, but cheaper services such as Tele2's wireless £19.99 a month package are emerging - unless you are a small business.

"Prices for businesses are higher, simply because businesses spend more time on the net than an individual," said a spokesperson at Oftel. "Competition will push prices down."

NTL launched its business broadband package on Wednesday last week, charging £90 a month, plus £220 installation fee.

"[The] launch is the first phase of our drive to make broadband accessible and affordable to small companies across the UK," said Steven Rowles, MD of NTL's business section.

This represents one of the cheaper packages on the market, compared to BTopenworld's £100-a-month service and Telewest's £125-a-month alternative, but the public seems to think it is still expensive.

"It is quite frankly a disgrace that a country that is supposed to be at the forefront of internet development has to put up with a third-rate system," said one PC Advisor reader. "We are being left behind by other more aware countries, and soon it will be too late."

He isn't alone. Many readers posted similar responses on the PC Advisor forums.

"It is not as simple as comparing costs here to those in Europe," said an Oftel spokesperson. "The quality of service, government funding and private investment all contribute to the final price."

In the US the average price for business ADSL (asymmetric digital subscriber line) is around £40 a month. Even France is cheaper than the UK with packages for around £65.

One further point that is different between large business network access and broadband for small firms is good service level agreements, which many providers, such as BT, seem to be ignoring. SLAs allow corporations to demand recompense for network downtime, for example.

Last week BT customers found themselves shut off from the internet for 24 hours with no recourse and no possibility of a refund. "This was an unfortunate incident which was resolved as soon as possible," said a BT spokesperson.

NTL promised to fix downed broadband service and equipment within six hours of failure.