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Cash from a public/private sector initiative is being used to subsidise broadband access for companies in the Midlands.

CW2000 - a project developed by Coventry University - has more than £7 million to make small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) in Coventry and Warwickshire more competitive by exploiting networking.

The European Regional Development Fund alone contributed £3 million to the project.

Part of the initiative includes subsidising businesses to hook up to broadband Net access. In some cases businesses can have the cost of broadband access covered for a whole year.

Although there are strict criteria and guidelines for companies taking part it appears the scheme is proving popular.

The project also makes it clear that it doesn't favour any one broadband technology. Those who sign up to the service could receive ADSL or fixed wireless depending on where the SMEs are based.

Indeed, those behind the project claim it's been instrumental in accelerating the roll-out of broadband access in Coventry and Warwickshire, including the upgrade of BT exchanges for DSL and investment from Tele2 to bring wireless broadband to the area.

CW2000 is currently negotiating with NTL to implement business-class cable modem service.

Marco Marrocco, Telecoms Manager at Leeds-based ISP Firstnet Services Ltd, which is partnering CW2000, said: "By helping to resolve the cost issues of Information and communications infrastructure and services, the CW2000 scheme allows smaller companies to compete on a level playing field with larger businesses."

He also said he's looking to mirror this initiative in other parts of the country. ®

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