TV presenter Philippa Forrester today launched the government's Broadband for Schools initiative at London's Natural History Museum, a project which aims to provide UK schools with free broadband connections by the end of 2003.

The scheme, driven by telecoms group Easynet and ISP UKOnline with the support of BT Wholesale, will provide vouchers known as Splats, to every business or individual who purchases broadband connections, leased lines and associated 'value add' products from the companies.

Once a school receives a donation of 100 vouchers it is entitled to a free broadband connection.

"Businesses and consumers need to consider that if they are looking into getting broadband, what better way than to support their local school in the process," said a spokeswoman at the Broadband for Schools project.

"The Broadband for Schools initiative helps schools' budgets, which are already tight, go further. The aims of the initiative fully support the government's targets for Broadband Britain," she added.

Every school that signs up to the scheme will receive materials such as wall charts and posters, helping them track their school's progress toward achieving their free connection. Schools must continue to collect vouchers in order to pay for the service, once it has been connected.

Regional and national competitions will also be held throughout the year providing schools with the opportunity to win more Splats.