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BT Broadband - the no-frills, access-only high-speed Net service - is a flop failing to live up to the telco's own expectations.

Since its £30m launch in September last year, the monster telco has flogged just 171,000 lines.

A spokesman for the monster telco told us that this was acceptable since it was a "new product".

What a difference a year makes. When BT Broadband was announced in April 2002 the company trumpeted: "BT Broadband will help drive rapid take-up of broadband in the UK and is a fundamental part of BT's stated aim of signing up one million broadband internet customers by summer 2003. BT plans to have connected 500,000 customers through the new direct service in the same period."

Asked why BT Broadband had failed so miserably to meet BT's planned target a spokesman said the 500,000 goal was "only an aspiration" and that BT "would get there eventually".

Overall, though, BT reports today that as of May 16, it had 936,000 wholesale ADSL lines in the UK, half of which are served by BT's ISP, BT Openworld and BT Broadband. The rest are supplied by ISPs such as Freeserve, AOL and Pipex.

Numbers are growing by more than 25,000 a week and BT expects to reach the one million milestone within the next couple of weeks.

Publishing its prelims for the year to the end of March, BT reported that pre-tax profits were up 44 per cent to £1.83bn while group turnover increased 2 per cent to £18.73bn.

However, this improved performance has been overshadowed by confirmation that BT has a pensions black hole of more than £6bn thanks to declining stock markets.

Shares in BT were up 8.5p (4.6 per cent) at 193.5 in early morning trading. ®

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