New deal on internet

November 12, 1999

Further education colleges will soon have cut-price connections to the internet under an agreement announced by Tony Blair, the prime minister, last week.

The big five telephone companies in the United Kingdom have agreed a deal to cut prices for internet access to further education colleges, libraries and citizens' advice bureaux.

BT, NTL, Telewest, Energis and Kingston have agreed to charge some public-sector institutions a set fee for unlimited daytime internet access, following the American model. This would dispense with per-minute charges, which can deter people from using the system and which was described as an anachronism by Oftel, the telecoms watchdog, last week.

The fees that colleges and other public sector institutions will face for internet access have still to be agreed, and will depend on negotiations with Oftel.

BT hopes to introduce the new fees next April. It aims to charge public-sector institutions Pounds 600 a year for each telephone line they use to connect to the internet. This could mean the institutions save more than 50 per cent on the charges they pay for internet use, depending how long they spend online.

The scheme follows BT's cut-price internet access project for schools in which schools pay Pounds 445 per year per line.

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