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Last Updated: Monday, 16 June, 2003, 08:47 GMT 09:47 UK
Broadband entrepreneurs wire the nation
By Jane Wakefield
BBC News Online technology staff

Around the UK, small communities are banding together to get access to fast net services.

Cromarty, Scotland
Cromarty is now fully broadband-enabled
It is testament to the power of broadband technology that so many people are arguing that they should be entitled to it - by whatever means necessary - and bypassing traditional routes to get even the most remote areas wired.

"Providing broadband services to remote locations has become quite a cottage industry," said Andy Williams from the Broadband4Britain campaign.

"We know of 436 local campaigns but I suspect that there are at least double that out there," he said.

Wireless auctions

For a remote town like Cromarty, the best way to provide broadband is without doubt to use fixed wireless technology,
Keith Anderson, Boston Networks
Wireless is often the technology of choice for those bypassed by BT's ADSL lines or by cable.

The medieval Scottish town of Cromarty has managed for 800 years without fast net access but felt the time had come to take advantage of some 21st century technology.

With a grant from the Highland and Islands Enterprise the town now has broadband via what is called a fixed wireless access link from Glasgow-based firm Boston Networks.

The network was up and running, with no need to dig up roads or close streets, within three weeks.

Now the company is looking to extend the network to four other local villages.

Fixed wireless access (FWA) technology has had something of a bad press, not least because government attempts to sell off licenses have flopped up until now.

But it can be a lifesaver for small towns such as Cromarty, said Keith Anderson, Chief Executive of Boston Networks.

"For a remote town like Cromarty, the best way to provide broadband is without doubt to use fixed wireless technology," he said.

The government is in the process of auctioning the fixed wireless spectrum for the third time and there are four bidders looking to buy licenses for six regions of the UK.

Cutting red tape

We don't have to spend three weeks passing paper between desks
Dan McDonald, PipeMedia
In the Midlands, a firm called Pipe Media is taking advantage of another under-used technology known as local loop unbundling.

Local loop unbundling involves BT allowing rival companies to install equipment into its telephone exchanges.

Pipe Media is able to broadband-enable exchanges if just 50 customers pledge to use the technology. BT has set its trigger levels at an average of 250 people.

"We are able to do it because we don't have the overheads of BT. We don't have to spend three weeks passing paper between desks," said Dan McDonald, Director of Broadband Services for PipeMedia.

The firm has 15 telephone exchanges earmarked for broadband in the Midlands area and is also considering extending its reach to Wales.

It is also offering broadband via wireless and the Leicestershire village of Market Bosworth will be the first to go live on Monday.

Prices start from 29.99 a month.

Entrepreneurial spirit

The UK is still more of a patchwork than a network
Andy Williams, Broadband4Britain
For technology-savvy people living in areas that do not have broadband, the temptation to provide a DIY alternative is often too great to resist.

In and around the village of Shire Newton in Monmouthshire two ex-technology workers have come up with a wireless solution for their neighbours.

They are now offering a consultancy service to villages in a similar position, surveying the area for suitability and providing all the kit they need to get onto the broadband highway.

Mr Williams is encouraged by the entrepreneurship that has come to the fore to get towns and villages wired to broadband but he thinks there is still a long way to go.

"The UK is still more of a patchwork than a network," he said.




SEE ALSO:
Broadband black spots still rife
11 Jun 03  |  Technology
Broadband balloons take off
26 May 03  |  Technology
UK broadband hits two million
22 May 03  |  Technology
Ministers on rural broadband
21 May 03  |  Live Events
Bringing broadband to the masses
16 May 03  |  Technology


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