There are several options for cruising down the information highway fast lane:
This can offer high connection speeds (from four times the speed of ISDN upwards) at competitive prices when compared with traditional telephony companies. Telford and Wrekin Council uses a fast Internet service provided by cable company Telewest. Graham Foster, the council's head of planning and resources, says applications like real video teaching become a possibility with high-speed links. The council has also designed its system to be upgradable for faster speeds in the future. NTL is rolling out its fast Internet service, HiSpeed, that is four times faster than ISDN and costs a flat fee of pound;40 per month. But it's important to check you can receive NTL's cable and if your local company offers a fast Internet service.
Not every school is in an urban area so services such as cable and ADSL may not always be available. One solution is wireless technology, which uses radio waves rather than fixed wires. Tele2 offers a wireless service in the Thames Valley area (it plans to expand the service later this year); installation is pound;145 and unlimited daytime access (with Web space) costs pound;65 per month. The basic speed is around the same as ISDN, but faster data speeds can be purchased.
Digital satellite dishes can receive more than just TV programmes - they can also collect data. Satellites have the potential to offer much faster speeds than ISDN, and all you need to receive data services is a satellite dish and a special card inside your computer. The educational company Espresso offers multimedia content via the Astra 1G digital satellite, but the service is currently one-way only. SES, which owns the Astra series of satellites, is planning to launch two-way satellite data services aimed at consumers and small businesses next year.
Alas a service that will not be available. Last year, Nortel and Norweb promised a high-speed Internet service that used ordinary electricity power lines. Unfortunately, the hype proved louder than the reality and the companies have abandoned the project.
NTL: Check Yellow Pages for local officeTele2: 0800 3787222Espresso: 0181 237 1200.