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Voss Net catches Internet fever

VOSS NET, the AIM-listed electronic commerce group, has become the latest stock to catch Internet fever after the company announced an agreement to supply free Internet access to schools in Britain.

Shares in the stock market tiddler doubled in early trading before closing 21.5p higher at 65p on the agreement with Free Computers for Education, a registered charity.

FCE collects unwanted computers from industry, refurbishes them and supplies them free to schools. Under the terms of yesterday's deal Voss Net has a four-year contract to supply schools with unlimited free Internet access under the FCE name. It will earn its income from a proportion of the telephone revenue generated from the Internet usage. FCE will also take a cut of the telephone charges and will use the money to buy more computer equipment for schools. Voss Net said: "The provision of free Internet access will form an important element of the company's strategy going forwards."

Free Internet access has become the latest trend in the small, but rapidly growing UK electronic commerce market. Dixons was first with the launch in September of its Freeserve service which now has more than a million members. Tesco and last week BT have since followed suit and experts predict a wave of copycat launches. The providers waive the usual monthly subscription fee and make their money from the helpline charges and the call revenue while users are on-line.