A controversial new federal search service on the World Wide Web ended a three-week free trial yesterday and began charging fees, but without Uncle Sam as an official promotion partner.

The Commerce Department took its name off the venture that it developed with Web service company Northern Light Technology LLC to index federal documents online, saying it was inappropriate for a government agency to take part in a pay service.

But Renee Edwards, spokeswoman for the department's National Technical Information Service, said the agency will still collect revenue from Northern Light whenever anyone buys a report from the NTIS database through the search service. That arrangement is the same one NTIS has with Dialog Corp. and other commercial information vendors.

Northern Light's service debuted on May 17 on a charge basis but was quickly made free because of protests that the Commerce Department shouldn't be charging for government information.

Now the department's name is gone from the site, at www. usgovsearch.com. Northern Light, which developed the service in response to a request from NTIS, will run it alone as a commercial operation.

The Massachusetts-based firm will charge subscription fees of $250 for one year and $30 for one month, the same fees announced on May 17. But it dropped the price for one-day passes from $15 to $5 and announced that it will grant free access at public libraries and secondary schools throughout the United States if they sign up to participate.

The service indexes more than 20,000 federal agency and military Web sites, 2 million document summaries from NTIS archives and 8 million articles from Northern Light's own database of periodicals.