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Multimedia booths could increase Net usage

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BT is to open 2,500 multimedia phone booths up and down the country in March, enabling everyone to surf the Web and collect and send email over the Internet. Each booth is to be fitted with a 10-inch screen which combines a built-in touch sensitive keyboard. Using a browser -- no-one knows which one just yet -- anyone will be able to access the Web. Email services will be available via BT’s Talk 21 free email service. The cost of the service is likely to be in line with the company's other pay-as-you go service BT Click, which is set at 1p above the local tariff rate. A BT representative said he thought this was the first time a service of this kind had been put to commercial use anywhere in the world. "This initiative opens up a whole new world," he said. "There are millions of people out there who don't have the opportunity to access the Internet. This service should remedy that situation. "It could even drive the growth of the PC market, in much the same way as public telephone boxes prompted the adoption of telephones in the home," he claimed. No firm decision been made about which browser will be used -- or whether Web access will be ring-fenced to create a safe haven of suitable material, the spokesman said. With less than four months to go before the booths become operational, BT acknowledges there is still much work to be done. And although the hardware and network infrastructure has been tested, the booths themselves are currently being knocked about with sledgehammers and covered in spray paint to test their resistance to vandalism by a crack BT environmental team. Which means that there are no pictures available of the booths – unless you want to see them lying in a smashed heap on the floor that is.®

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