A million more homes and businesses in the UK are to be in reach of broadband through phone lines after BT said it was scrapping exchange distance limits.
About 99.8% of lines should be able to get 512Kbps broadband
From 6 September, anyone living more than 6km from an ADSL (Asynchronous Digital Subscriber Line) exchange will be able to get a 512Kbps connection.
The limit had prevented many from taking up broadband.
BT also said it had provided 1m more ADSL connections in the last six months, taking it past the 3m mark.
"We are now well on our way to our target of five million wholesale broadband connections by 2006," said Alison Ritchie, BT's chief broadband officer.
"But there will be no complacency. We will continue to work hard to maintain this momentum, building Broadband Britain now and for the future."
Faster and further
As well as the 512Kbps distance limits being lifted, it also announced it was increasing the distance homes and businesses need to be to exchanges to get an even faster 1Mbps connection.
Previously, only those within 4km of exchanges enabled for faster speeds could get the service.
That is to be stretched to 6km, meaning about 96% of the UK could get the 1Mbps speed.
"By pushing the boundaries on broadband reach we are building on our exchange upgrade rollout programme which means the remaining gaps in the broadband Britain jigsaw are getting smaller and smaller," said Ms Ritchie.
But BT said that in some cases there may still be technical limitations to getting some services.
The distance from exchanges was a big issue
Trials in Milton Keynes, Fort William and Dingwall revealed that about one in five of those affected by the lifting of the distance limits for 512Kbps services would need technical modifications to their wiring.
BT said this would be done for free by its own engineers.
There are now about 150 net service providers which sell broadband services through BT's ADSL lines. But about 1.7 million get high-speed net access through cable connections too.
There has been some recent debate, however, about what speeds qualify as "broadband", with so many service providers offering different packages.
Last week, the Advertising Standards Association (ASA) ruled that net provider Wanadoo could not use the phrase "full speed" in ads for its 512Kbps service.
The ASA said consumers would think this was the fastest net connection available.
More than 91% of the UK has access to a broadband-enabled exchange. The figure is set to surpass 99% by summer 2005.
BT says this means that the UK will have more homes and businesses in reach of ADSL broadband than any other G7 country.