A pilot scheme to test plans to connect the United Kingdom's schools to the Internet through the JANET academic network has been launched this week.
De Montfort University and the Tresham Institute of Further and Higher Education, Kettering, will monitor the project, offer training and maintain the connection to JANET.
The Pounds 500,000 Project Connect scheme, financed entirely by the commercial sector, involves seven schools going online this year.
Tresham Institute's computer manager Bob Crocker said that the final part of the connection for schools in Kettering, Leicester and Hounslow would be in place by the end of the week.
The service could be extended nationally next year with higher education institutions across the country being asked to provide connection points. It has been developed by the Trusted Open Systems Connectivity Alliance based in Gobowen, Shropshire and funded by a 26-member consortium of information technology firms.
The project aims to offer free access to the Internet via JANET. Schools will pay BT's ISDN2 local call charge when they dial in to the local access provider. The ISDN lines operate at 64 kilobits per second, more than twice the speed of a 28.8kbps modem and a standard phone line.
Lord Renwick, secretary of the Parliamentary Information Technology Committee, has been appointed chairman of the project's steering committee.