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Last Updated: Monday, 17 November, 2003, 12:35 GMT
All of UK on broadband 'by 2005'
Computer cable
The goal is to get all of the country on high-speed net
BT has said every community in the UK can have broadband net access by 2005.

"We are committed to getting 100% coverage to every community, but we need to work in partnership," said BT's Alison Ritchie.

The pledge comes as BT announced 32 more phone exchanges have been upgraded for high-speed net.

It has also set trigger levels for all but 600 exchanges, meaning two million homes and businesses could get ADSL broadband if enough sign up for it.

Costs and demands

BT upgrades a telephone exchange for high-speed net via ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) when a trigger level is reached, which means a certain number of people say they want it.

"Our industry, along with government at all levels, has a huge role to play to accelerate broadband availability, demand and take-up," said Ben Verwaayen, BT Group chief executive.

The issue is about stimulating demand for broadband, and for me it is a local issue more than a national one. It's about making broadband relevant to business and consumers
Alison Ritchie, BT

BT said it decided to make the commitment to the 2,300 exchanges, as well as the 100% coverage target after reviewing its long-term broadband strategy and costs.

"With our latest understanding of technology and costs and the growing enthusiasm for regional partnerships, means we can take a new approach to broadband investments.

"We are now in a position to extend trigger levels into the furthest parts of the UK," said Mr Verwaayen.

Small but significant

The 600 remaining exchanges are "very small", BT claimed, accounting for about 100,000 households.

It said different approaches would be needed to get broadband into those areas, which are predominantly in rural places, involving more partnerships with public and private sectors to stimulate demand.

Trigger levels have long been criticised for being set too high, but BT said changes in equipment costs mean demand levels have been lowered.

"The issue is about stimulating demand for broadband, and for me it is a local issue more than a national one," said Ms Ritchie, BT's chief broadband officer.

"It's about making broadband relevant to business and consumers."

BT said these communities could use alternative technologies, such as wireless broadband, or satellite technologies.

Ms Ritchie also said BT is working on making sure ADSL-enabled exchanges reached homes that want high-speed net.

Currently, even though some households and businesses are in ADSL areas, three to four percent are located too far from telephone exchanges to get the service.

The announcement coincided with a separate statement by the minister for e-commerce Stephen Timms MP, who announced last week that not only would all to the UK be online by 2005, but all would have access to broadband too.

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