Public institutions can expect cheaper Internet access from next April with savings of up to 50 per cent on the price of standard Internet charges.
As vnunet.com predicted yesterday, the savings, under new BT services, will apply to both the fixed telephone network and on ISDN services. The cheaper tariffs, the fruit of an Oftel initiative, were announced today by the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, at a Confederation of British Industry conference.
He said that public libraries, further education colleges and citizens' advice bureaux would benefit from a range of special daytime, evening and weekend Internet tariffs proposed by BT. BT's special weekend and evening tariffs will be extended to schools.
Patricia Hewitt, ecommerce and small firms minister, welcomed the news: "BT's announcement means that even more people will have access to the Internet. This is vital if we are to realise our vision of making the UK the best place for ecommerce by 2002."
Oftel has already pushed a number of telecom operators into providing schools with low rate daytime Internet access.
The telecoms watchdog published a consultation document on BT's proposed prices for the scheme, and said it would ensure that the scheme is not unfair to other telecoms operators and does not unfairly penalise other BT customers.
Under BT's proposed Public Institution Internet Caller package, public institutions will receive unlimited daytime Internet access for £600 per year, or £1200 for a higher speed ISDN line. Evening or weekend access will be available for an additional £150.
Several other companies, including Energis, NTL and Telewest, are planning to offer special tariff packages for certain public institutions.
David Edmonds, director general of Oftel, said: "I am delighted with the response from BT and the other telecoms operators to the considerable challenge of getting Britain online. Schoolchildren are already reaping the benefits of cheaper Internet access."
He added: "The initiative will promote Internet access for all, and will help bring the learning society right to the heart of communities across the country."
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