Page last updated at 07:09 GMT, Friday, 31 July 2009 08:09 UK

High speed rural broadband hope

Computer keyboard and mouse
The researchers said fast internet access could be available to all

A test broadband network on Skye has produced a faster internet connection than is available in most cities, researchers have claimed.

The University of Edinburgh and the University of the Highlands and Islands project has brought high speed web access in rural areas closer.

The system would require community-driven networks and government funding.

The scientists said the system could be replicated across Scotland, bringing fast web access to isolated regions.

The university researchers built a low-cost ring of wireless phone relays connected to an existing internet connection at the Sabhal Mor Ostaig college in Skye.

The network covered about 40km of the coast of Sleat and Loch Hourn and the villages of Arnisdale and Corran.

Technical problems

Prof Peter Buneman, of Edinburgh University's school of informatics, said: "Access to the internet is fast becoming a basic utility in cities, but in rural areas it is often unavailable.

"People living remotely need web access to run businesses, use mail order, to access educational support, or to contact friends and family.

"Broadband speed is doubly important in remote areas where radio, TV and telephones may not work well. Our study shows how high-speed access can be made available to remote areas."

The scientists said much of rural Scotland still had no high quality web access, despite government investment to upgrade the existing copper wire infrastructure and subsidise satellite connections.

Many rural communities are several miles from a telephone exchange - too far for high-speed broadband to work - while satellite connection for high-speed access is very expensive and carries the risk of added technical problems.

The scientists believe that, since thinly populated areas hold little incentive for commercial internet service providers, public sector investment is needed to establish a backbone of internet connections across rural Scotland.

Communities could then develop bespoke wireless networks, tapping into these main connections.

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