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BT is continuing its drive to tempt businesses to sign up to broadband with three measures which, it says, will help provide "hassle-free" technology for small and medium businesses (SMEs) in the UK.

Following on from the ACT NOW scheme in Cornwall, in which exchanges in areas deemed commercially unviable were upgraded to broadband thanks to a public/private partnership and loads of cash, BT is to expand the scheme to other parts of the country.

Schemes in Scotland, Cardiff, Wiltshire and Swindon, Devon, Hastings and West Sussex should see 90 more exchanges upgraded, bringing an additional 45,000 SMEs within spitting distance of broadband.

Separately, BT is also working with broadband service provider, Bulldog - a vocal critic of BT in the past incidentally - to run an SDSL (Symmetric Digital Subscriber Line) broadband trial in London from late autumn.

The trial - which allows companies to send and receive large files - is planned for late autumn and will involve around 30 SMEs in central London. By the end of March 2004 some 500 punters are expected to be using SDSL technology.

And finally, BT has teamed up with Computacenter to offer what it calls "hassle-free" technology with the provision of IT help and support services geared towards SMEs.

BT Retail chief exec Pierre Danon said all three initiatives were aimed at meeting the needs of customers in the SME sector.

Some 30,000 SMEs have so far signed up to ADSL in the UK and numbers are growing by around 2,500 a week.

Elsewhere, BTopenworld claims that almost half of businesses it surveyed claim that education and understanding was the "prime catalyst to accelerate broadband uptake in Britain" ahead of other "perceived barriers", such as cost and availability.

Perceived barriers? Surely, the biggest barrier to broadband take-up is availability - if it ain't available, you can't have it. Simple.

And if availability is only a "perceived barrier", why then is the chief exec of BT Retail announcing further schemes to deploy broadband in rural areas? ®

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