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Thursday, 21 March, 2002, 12:29 GMT
UK slow to close digital divide
Dartmoor
An uphill struggle to get broadband into the countryside
As the UK Government launches a series of projects designed to bring broadband to the countryside, it emerges that both town and country surfers could be losing out.

Around 30m has been handed over to Rural Development Agencies (RDAs) to find the most cost-effective way of bringing high-speed net access to remote towns such as Buckfastleigh in Devon.


If ISPs fail to address these service issues, they risk creating a nation of broadband castaways

Bruno Teuber, Motive Communications
It is hoped that Buckfastleigh can become the first rural broadband town, with high-speed net connections in the local school, health centre, town hall and library.

However, the government admits that despite making the money available over a year ago, no technology to provide rural broadband has yet been found.

For residents living in rural areas, existing technology simply cannot reach them.

A spokesman for the Department of Trade and Industry admitted that so far no solution had emerged.

"Buckfastleigh was chosen for the pilot because of its location. BT doesn't go there and it is unlikely that any telecommunication company will invest in places like that," he said.

Bidding for broadband

Satellite could be an option but it is very expensive and so local businesses and public services would have to share the cost. Wireless is also being considered in other remote areas.


These things do take time due to bureaucracy and red tape

DTI spokesman
A brokerage system, where rural businesses and public services collectively bid for broadband is being tested in the east of England.

Critics point out that government noises about promoting broadband in rural areas is doing little to find concrete solutions to the problem of a geographical digital divide.

A DTI spokesman admitted that getting money out to RDAs to deal with the problem has been slow.

"These things do take time due to bureaucracy and red tape," he said.

Hard to connect

For those urban dwellers lucky enough to get their hands on broadband, a survey has found that 41% of users are finding it hard to set up services.

The survey, commissioned by software firm Motive Communications, shows that the initial setting up of a broadband connection was frustrating 20% of users.

Connecting up to the internet was also flummoxing would-be surfers.

Requests for customer service were found to be relatively high with 32% of broadband users requesting help up to three times a month.

The general manager of Motive Communications, Bruno Teuber, is concerned that prospective users are being turned off the technology.

"If ISPs and broadband operators fail to address these service issues, they risk creating a nation of broadband castaways," he said.

See also:

19 Mar 02 | Sci/Tech
Broadband gets popular
09 Mar 02 | Sci/Tech
Tempting people to broadband
26 Feb 02 | Business
Opening up the broadband market
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