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Wednesday, 17 April, 2002, 15:55 GMT 16:55 UK
Rural residents demand broadband
Village centre
Could the village hall become a broadband hub?
One of BT's frustrated rural customers has come up with a way of getting broadband into the British countryside.

Simon Faulkner is a computer consultant living in the "wilds of the Staffordshire moorlands" and he currently relies on an expensive alternative to ADSL fast net connection to communicate with his customers.

Using a product called BT NetStart, Mr Faulkner can get large amounts of bandwidth supplied to his house. The catch is in the cost - between 3,000 and 5,000 a year.

ADSL, by contrast, costs around 360 a year.

Although NetStart is designed as a business product, it has one major advantage over ADSL: it covers 95% of the country.

Price drop?

Mr Faulkner wants to know why BT cannot supply NetStart more cheaply as an alternative to ADSL in rural areas.


If there was one fixed address, a community centre for example, then in theory it could be used

BT spokesperson
"BT says Oftel would not allow them to sell services any cheaper than they already do when I speak to them about it," he said.

A BT spokesperson confirmed that this is the case but said there was no reason why rural residents could not share the expense.

"I don't know if anyone would want to because it is designed for small businesses with large volumes of e-mail and a need for e-commerce," she said.

"But if there was one fixed address, a community centre for example, then in theory it could be used."

Community spirit

Remote communities are realising that any chance they have of taking part in the high-speed net revolution will involve a group effort.

Mr Faulkner would be quite happy to link up with neighbours, some of whom run small businesses from home or work remotely and would therefore appreciate an always-on fast net connection.

"I'd love to do something like that in this community. At the moment, I print out a community newsletter and that could be done on e-mail," he said.

"The only problem is we could create our very own digital divide for those that don't have it," he pointed out.

Townies cannot get it either

As the cost of ADSL has fallen, so demand has jumped and BT Wholesale is now getting around 10,000 orders a week. Pressure is on to extend the reach of the technology.

Rural broadband
100 more exchanges to be ADSL-enabled by end of May
BT considering updating 500 other exchanges
Cornwall scheme allows businesses to bid for broadband
Satellite services are in use but are expensive
BT recently announced it would be ADSL-enabling another 100 exchanges, bringing coverage of the technology to 66% of the population.

But urban residents racing to get their hands on the technology have also encountered problems, and BBC News Online has been contacted by dozens of disappointed users.

Tony Wood lives in the centre of Chesterfield within five miles (eight kilometres) of an ADSL-enabled exchange but cannot get it.

John Hazelden has the same issue.

"I find it strange that BT say my exchange in High Wycombe, Bucks, is enabled but yet I cannot get broadband although I am within five miles of the town centre," he told BBC News Online.

According to BT this is unusual.

"There may be a few isolated incidences where certain households can't get it for technical reasons but generally if you live within five miles of the exchange you will," said a BT spokesperson.

See also:

08 Apr 02 | Sci/Tech
BT offers new way to connect to net
31 Mar 02 | Sci/Tech
Struggle to get broadband
21 Mar 02 | Sci/Tech
UK slow to close digital divide
19 Mar 02 | Sci/Tech
Broadband gets popular
13 Apr 02 | Sci/Tech
Britons dash for broadband
Internet links:


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