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Biggies take on British Internet market

British Telecom and Rupert Murdoch's News International announce plans to launch an Internet service for the mass market in the United Kingdom.

British Telecom and Rupert Murdoch's News International today announced plans to launch an Internet service for the mass market in the United Kingdom.

The venture sets the stage for a Net version of the "Battle of Britain." British billionaire Richard Branson plans to launch an online service by year's end through his Virgin Group business empire. And U.S. companies, including CompuServe, UUNet, PSINet, and Netcom, are also invading in an effort to stake a claim in this fast-growing market.

Appropriately named Springboard, the News-British Telecom venture marks Murdoch's return to the online services market after a U.S. deal with MCI--dubbed Delphi--fizzled earlier this year.

Content will be drawn from Murdoch's stable of print publications, the London Times, the Sunday Times, the Sun and News of the World.

"Unlike current services, which appeal only to limited sectors of the community, we will have the depth of material and ease of use to appeal to a wide range of households," Rupert Gavin, BT's director of multimedia services, said in a statement. "We will be able to offer teenagers help with their homework as well as news on their favorite team."

Springboard also will work their third-party partners to provide local and national news, sports and weather, as well as online shopping and ticketing.

That is in marked contrast to the Delphi deal, which relied more on original content from a newsroom of hundreds of people.

The service will be available to users worldwide by subscription. Prices haven't yet been determined.