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February 16, 1999


By CBR Staff Writer

UK internet services company Voss Net Plc and the charity Free Computers for Schools (FCE) have launched a free ISP for schools across the country, putting increased pressure on paid-for services. The service, which models itself on the Dixons Freeserve template, will be marketed to teachers, children, parents, governors and Local Education Authorities. Each educational area will have its own dial-up number, so subscribers can use the service from school, work or home. Voss and FCE will split the revenues created from the portion of call charges free ISPs receive. The charity will use its share to donate more computers to schools. If successful, the service will enhance the serious threat to paid-for ISPs. Oftel, the government telecoms watchdog, is considering a complaint from British Telecommunications Plc that the rates of data traffic from the explosion of free ISPs is putting a strain on its infrastructure. Roger Carter, chairman of Voss Net, said: Oftel could reduce the rates, which would reduce margins across the board. If it did that, it would have a direct effect on schools and schoolchildren. The scheme could mark the beginning of a turnaround for Voss NetÆs fortune. The company, although profitable, has seen its share price plummet from over 350 pence to less that 50 pence in the last three years. Carter was drafted into the job 11 weeks ago to make some changes. On TuesdayÆs news, Voss stock rose almost 100% by lunchtime, settling eventually almost 50% higher than opening.

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