Former number one UK internet service provider America OnLine (UK) Ltd still claims to have no plans to drop its monthly subscription charges, despite a direct challenge from Virgin Net, which switched to a free model Wednesday. Virgin chairman Richard Branson claimed his ISP could match subscription-based AOL in terms of content, which had so far been AOLÆs last line of argument against going free. An AOL spokesperson told Computergram: It’s very flattering that Virgin wants to imitate us. But we have no plans to go free. AOL claims the company’s international base and strong community spirit among subscribers should be enough to keep it going strong. ISPs that charge a monthly fee claim that up to 60% of free-service users also subscribe to their services, although the numbers are open to dispute. They also challenge the motives of free ISPs linked to retailers such as Dixons Freeserve and TescoNet, claiming the services are used as loss-leaders to direct users to their home-shopping sites.