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Thursday, 16 August, 2001, 13:58 GMT 14:58 UK
Norwegian village in broadband trial
Modalen at edge of fjord
Modalen: Hi-tech links to each other and outside world
By BBC World Business Report's Wendy Pascoe

A small village in western Norway has been chosen to pioneer an experiment to make it the most technologically-advanced region outside Silicon Valley.

The idea is to make Modalen the world's first fully-connected wireless broadband community.

Modalen is situated at the head of a remote Norwegian fjord and was chosen because the mountainous terrain and small population made it unprofitable to lay cable.

A consortium of information technology companies, including Cisco Systems of the US and the Norwegian firm Nera, is planning to offer fast-connection to the internet by using radio waves.

School link

Local media, public services, local businesses and even the local school, will eventually be linked digitally.

Jostein Eck, project manager for the group of companies which have contributed the technology, said it was a complicated system.

"But if we manage to do it in Modalen, then we can do it anywhere in the whole world," he said.

Broadband provides
24-hour internet connection
video on demand
interactive digital television
home shopping
video e-mail
fast downloading of games and music
video conferencing
Modalen is a showcase for the technology and a chance to see how it works in real life.

Broadband connection is much faster than a conventional link. Data moves more quickly, and sound and picture quality is clearer.

A specially-developed set-top box is on loan to families so that everyone can afford to participate.

The box will enable online banking and shopping, e-mail and interactive television for video conferences.

Hogne Haktorson, chief executive of Modalen's local council and one of the driving forces behind the technology, wants people to use the broadband technology to vote on community issues.

Equipment is freely available so every family can participate

Waterfalls are the source of Modalen's wealth. The two metres of rain the village gets every year are harnessed in a hydro-electric scheme.

Some of the money generated is being spent in turning the valley into a high-tech super-highway. The remainder of the funding is being supplied by the consortium and public finance.

Not all converted

Not everybody in Modalen's population of 360 is converted to the new technology.

Some of the elderly, if they access the internet at all, prefer to go online via a telephone link to their familiar television set.

But Jostein Eck and his team are sure the future for isolated communities is in broadband and are already looking for new communities to convert.

Wendy Pascoe, BBC World Business Report
"Digital technology will benefit the whole community"
See also:

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12 Feb 01 | Entertainment
UK broadband 'lagging behind'
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