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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 July, 2003, 11:39 GMT 12:39 UK
Broadband net speeds ahead
A forest of plugs, Eyewire
New ways to plug in are helping people get broadband
The number of Britons with high-speed net access is continuing to grow.

According to the Office of National Statistics 17% of net-using households have a broadband connection.

Numbers look set to continue growing as firms start offering new ways to get a fast link to the net.

BT has also announced that it is equipping more telephone exchanges with high-speed links in response to customer demand.

Making demands

The net is now being used in 47% of British households, according to the Office of National Statistics.

In the three months covered by the research, 54% of adults said they had used the net.

The majority of people, 81%, go online via a dial-up modem. But a growing number of net-savvy homes, 17%, use broadband.

Lavender field in Norfolk, BBC
East Anglia is getting broadband via radio
More people are going to be able to get broadband too as BT reveals the level of demand needed to persuade it to extend high-speed links to a further 500 telephone exchanges.

Rather than wire the whole country up for broadband via telephone wires - a technology known as ADSL - BT chose to only upgrade exchanges in some towns and villages if demand was high.

It is measuring demand by setting up a system that lets people declare their interest in buying broadband should their local exchange be upgraded.

BT said that 56 of the exchanges in its new list would be upgraded immediately as enough locals had already registered their interest.

The telecommunications firm launched the registration system in July 2002 and so far more than 470,000 people have signalled their interest in broadband.

It said that 300 local exchanges have already been upgraded and a further 400 are due to be fitted with ADSL technology.

Hi-tech tasters

Some keen net users are finding other innovative ways to get broadband.

This week four residents of a street in Stonehaven, near Aberdeen in Scotland, started getting high-speed net access via power lines.

Electric plug and socket, BBC
You can even get the net via a power socket
The Powerline technology pipes data through electricity cables and lets users surf the net via a connector that plugs into a conventional electrical socket. It can work at speeds up to two megabits per second.

Scottish Hydro-Electric is behind the technology which was piloted in Crieff and Campbeltown before being rolled out in Stonehaven.

It will also be offered to other customers of other companies of Scottish and Southern Energy - the parent of Scottish Hydro-Electric.

People living in rural areas of East Anglia and East Midlands will soon be offered a chance to get broadband via wireless technology.

From the end of September a company called Wireless Rural Broadband is setting up a service that gives companies a radio-based 54mbps net link for only 10 per month.

Although primarily meant for companies, the firm said it would consider taking orders from home users too.

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