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BT has dismissed claims that it can fund the upgrade of rural exchanges to broadband with the revenue from just 50 customers.

Internet pressure group Broadband4Britain (B4B), consulted independent analysts, industry experts and equipment suppliers and concluded that any local telephone exchange in the UK can be affordably "Broadband-enabled" with just 50 paying customers.

At this level B4B reckons BT would see a "rapid pay-back on [its] capital investment".

If accurate, the figures question BT's assertion that rolling out access to rural areas is not commercially viable.

Said B4B campaign manager Andy Williams: "FlashPoint 50 destroys the myth that non-urban DSL roll-out is uneconomic.

"In fact, some of our discussions have indicated an even lower number of users, based on different services and longer pay-back times.

"We renew our call to government and the telecommunications industry to upgrade 20 per cent of non-urban telephone exchanges to broadband capability within one year," he said.

However, BT has dismissed the figures, claiming that exchanges can cost hundreds of thousands of pounds to upgrade to broadband.

"We don't agree with these figures," said a BT spokesman today. "Each exchange is different. It's not as simple as that."

Last week BT said that two thirds of the UK - some 16 million homes - can now hook up to ADSL. ®

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