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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 October, 2003, 12:50 GMT 13:50 UK
'Digital divide' fear on jobs
Man sitting at computer
Rural areas could face a bleak future without new industry
The future for mid Wales businesses could be bleak because of lack of access to broadband on the internet, it is claimed.

A "digital divide" could develop between rural areas and urban regions capable of easy access to the network, according to a senior council official.

Jeremy Wright, Powys' head of economic development services, said the Welsh Assembly Government should allow businesses to use part of the public broadband networks used by schools.

Vast areas of Ceredigion and Powys are unable to access affordable broadband
Jeremy Wright, Powys council

At present in Powys only two BT exchanges at Newtown and Glantawe are enabled for ADSL - Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber Line - which allows existing telephone cables to carry high speed data.

BT are conducting a marketing campaign to secure enough subscribers to ADSL at other exchanges in Welshpool, Llandrindod Wells and Brecon.

Digital divide

But even if this campaign is successful this will leave a large number of the county's population without broadband access.

"Vast areas of Ceredigion and Powys are unable to access affordable broadband and will be unable to do so without some form of direct intervention by the public sector," said Mr Wright.

"BT has made it clear that it is not economically viable for them to provide it.

"A digital divide is being created although much of the future prosperity of the area will depend on enterprises and residents having access to such affordable technology."

Computer cables
The future of communities could depend on high-speed internet access

Powys council is talking with Ceredigion council about the possibility of setting up a public-private set-up to secure the growth of broadband in areas outside ADSL networks.

The cost of providing this service using landlines means that wireless technology could hold the key to extending internet services to all villages.

A WAG spokesman said: "At present the use of the lifelong learning network by businesses is not permitted but this is an area will be exploring in future.

"State aid regulations make this a complex area with much to consider."

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