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A BT project to roll-out ADSL in Cornwall could become the blueprint for the phased introduction of broadband Net access in rural Britain.

The project - a public/private sector partnership including BT and the South West of England Regional Development Agency - will invest £12.5 million to help get small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) in Cornwall online.

The cash - which includes European grants - will be used to provide 3,300 businesses with ADSL access and could lead to the creation of up to a thousand jobs.

Before this project, the city of Truro was the only place in Cornwall with access to DSL. Thanks to the cash injection Penzance, Newquay, St Austell and Redruth will be upgraded early next year.

And if the project is successful, further exchanges in Falmouth, Camborne, Launceston, Bodmin, Saltash, Penryn, St Ives and Bude will follow.

As a result 93,000 households and 14,000 businesses will be within ADSL-enabled exchange areas in Cornwall.

The project has been welcomed by ecommerce minister Douglas Alexander, who said that UK businesses need to seize the opportunities that new technologies offer if they are to be competitive in the 21st century.

However, while the ecommerce minister is happy to see public and private funds to roll-out broadband, he has rejected calls for tax breaks for the roll-out of broadband.

Following the publication of the Broadband Stakeholders Group (BSG) report last week the Government effectively signalled that it was not prepared to use tax-payers' money to aid the roll-out of broadband.

It means that partnerships such as the one announced today could be the way forward in deploying DSL. It's understood that BT is currently holding negotiations with other areas in a bid to set-up similar deals.

However, such schemes don't always work. Last month BT confirmed that the further deployment of mass-market broadband technology in North Wales was "unlikely to happen on a commercial basis alone" after only a handful of people signed up to broadband. ®

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