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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 19 March, 2003, 12:12 GMT
Broadband access leaps ahead
Close-up of computer and keyboard
More than 40 million Europeans will have broadband by 2006
Permanent internet connections in the UK have grown by over 200% in the last year, according to a government report.

Permanent connections include any service that is always on, both home broadband services and fast-net access in the workplace.

Such services now account for nearly 11% of the internet market in the UK and have leapt up by 255.7% in the 12 months of 2002, according to the report from the Office of National Statistics.

The massive increase illustrated the power of broadband publicity campaigns and falling prices, the report said.

UK overtaking France

According to analyst firm Datamonitor, the leap in broadband numbers is set to carry on for the foreseeable future as the technology wavers on the brink of becoming mass-market.

Datamonitor predicts that over 41 million European households will be accessing the internet via high-speed connections by 2006.

By that time, it predicts the UK will have overtaken France to become Europe's second biggest broadband-connected country behind Germany.

The problem of getting broadband out to remote towns and villages is also being addressed in the UK.

Boost for rural broadband

BT is set to launch its so-called Midband service - which offers almost-broadband speeds to remote areas - in the summer.

It has also added 200 telephone exchanges across the country to its list for a broadband upgrade.

A rash of grass-root schemes to boost broadband access in rural counties have also helped consumers make the switch to fast net services.

The latest is a 2.5m grant from One NorthEast, the regional development agency for the area, to improve broadband links across County Durham.

And AOL, in conjunction with the Citizens Online charity, is offering a series of Innovation in the Community Awards to local groups who are doing the most to bridge the digital divide across the UK.

On offer is 2,000 each and a year's free broadband from AOL.

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