Page last updated at 12:14 GMT, Tuesday, 14 October 2008 13:14 UK

UK firm leads way on EU broadband

Poppies growing in a field in Italy
Rural parts of Italy will be among those to benefit from the EU plans

A UK organisation has been invited to take part in a major European project to bring broadband to rural areas.

The European Union is spending 3.5m euros to improve net access across the region.

The B3 - Regions for Better Broadband Connection project aims to tackle the 30% of rural homes and businesses without broadband.

UK-based NYnet was chosen as one of the partners following its introduction of high speed access in North Yorkshire.

Community broadband

NYnet was set up by North Yorkshire County Council to provide super-fast broadband to ensure local businesses could keep up with those in more urban areas.

The network - which has a fibre core provided by BT Global Services - offers high-speed broadband of between 1Mbps (megabits per second) to 1Gbps (gigabits per second) to local businesses.

NYnet is also working with around six communities groups around Yorkshire to see if it can be extended to homes as well.

"There are around 30 communities in North Yorkshire that can't get DSL at all because they are too far away from BT's exchanges," said Clive Downing, business development manager for NYnet.

Some manage to share a DSL connection but with high bandwidth applications such as the iPlayer getting more popular, new solutions need to be found, said Mr Downing.

Business model

The problem of reaching out to those withouth high-speed net access is one the EU has long grappled with.

According to the EU's broadband performance index, published last month, 70% of the rural population can access broadband.

Its B3 scheme, kickstarted in Turin in September, is aimed at reaching the remaining 30%.

It consists of 17 projects across rural areas of Europe, including Italy, Spain and Poland.

"We were selected to take part because we actually have a business up and running," said Mr Downing.

"We have found a business model that works whereas some public sector schemes work only until the grant runs out," he said.

Brussels is currently considering whether to make broadband access available for all Europeans.

Overall around 36% of households in EU member nations have high-speed net access.

When that gets to half, EC telecoms rules dictate that it must become a service every European can benefit from.

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