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France Télécom keeps inviting me to upgrade my communications. If I pay the required fee, I will be able to watch millions of TV channels, write a novel on my wireless laptop, phone my parents in England and cook a four-course meal for five people - all at the same time, while standing on my head. At least, that's what the leaflet appears to be telling me, just before I throw it in the trash.

Telecommunications companies must be glad they've got lots of nifty new services to charge us for, because who uses fixed line telephones any more ? Pretty soon, we'll all be using our computers to talk to our friends. You've probably heard of a nifty operation called Skype, which has just been bought by eBay for US$ 2.6 billion. If you ask me, it was a bargain.

A friend of mine in Barcelona told me about Skype a couple of months ago. I only just discovered it. The innocent words on the company's website (www.skype.com) are enough to make a telecoms company CEO feel nauseous. « Skype is a programme for making free calls over the Internet to anyone who also has Skype. » It adds that the service is free to download. Its slogan is : « With Skype you can talk to anyone, anywhere, for free, forever. » When computers are integrated with mobile phones, the telecoms companies will be cooked. Like bloggers, who have provided an alternative to the mainstream press, Skype upsets the power balance. What other global industries will consumers hijack using the Web ? Advertising, maybe ?Mark Tungate www.tungateinparis.com

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