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Wednesday, 29 May, 2002, 09:50 GMT 10:50 UK
Pressure on for rural broadband
 A view of the Lake District
Rural broadband makes sense, say campaigners
The idea that broadband internet services are only viable in urban areas in the UK is a myth, according to national pressure group Broadband4Britain.

Following consultation with independent analysts Ovum and other experts, it says that any local telephone exchange in the UK can be affordably broadband-enabled if just 50 customers want services.


These findings destroy the myth that non-urban DSL roll-out is uneconomic

Andy Williams, Broadband4Britain
BT has always argued that it was only economically viable to roll out its ADSL broadband service in areas where there was a demand from at least 200 customers.

Campaign manager of Broadband4Britain, Andy Williams, believes BT should rethink its plans.

"These findings destroy the myth that non-urban DSL roll-out is uneconomic," he said.

"We renew our call to government and the telecommunications industry to upgrade 20% of non-urban telephone exchanges to broadband capability within one year."

Community action

Currently around 66% of the UK can get broadband services either via the telephone line or from cable operators.

People power is fast becoming an influential weapon in the fight to get broadband access in the countryside as a flurry of websites are set up by fed-up rural residents.


I contacted the local council but not much seemed to be happening with them

Nicholas Carter, Broadband Norfolk
Broadband4Britain is hoping to team up with other community groups to map the demand for high-speed services across rural Britain.

The Broadband Norfolk website was created by frustrated resident Nicholas Carter. He lives in the Norfolk village of Ormesby and was fed up with being ignored by broadband suppliers.

"The campaign was really inspired because I felt that people living in the rural areas such as a lot of Norfolk shouldn't be disadvantaged by not having broadband access just because of where they live," he said.

So far, 500 residents and 20 businesses have signed the online petition in Norfolk.

No communication

Both BT and the government are involved in separate schemes to raise awareness of broadband in rural areas but neither seems to have co-ordinated their efforts with local residents.

"I contacted the local council but not much seemed to be happening with them. I have also contacted BT but so far it hasn't responded," said Mr Carter.

Much more joined-up thinking is required if the government wants to avoid a digital divide, thinks Mr Williams.

While he believes government objectives for broadband are often vague, his campaign is clear.

"This campaign represents around 300,000 broadband have-nots across the UK. We aim to mobilise them to create a large number of broadband-education and demand-creation campaigns within their local communities," he said.

See also:

23 May 02 | Science/Nature
20 May 02 | Science/Nature
17 May 02 | Business
10 May 02 | Science/Nature
17 Apr 02 | Science/Nature
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