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BT and friends pump £7m into Wiltshire broadband

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BT and friends are pumping £7m into Wiltshire to accelerate broadband rollout in the county.

Called Wiltshire and Swindon Smartplace, the project will over its lifetime see access to ADSL delivered to an 63,000 households and 6,000 businesses in the largely rural county.

Within 15 months, around 80 per cent of Wiltshire companies and householders will be connected to BT exchanges equipped with ADSL. That is not necessarily so impressive - you have make sure Swindon and a few large towns are 100 per cent ADSL-enabled to hit the number. The real test of ubiquity is geographic coverage.

A huge list of public sector partners are funding the gig to the tune of £4m (BT is putting in the rest). Step forward Wiltshire County Council, BT, the South West of England Regional Development Agency, the county's four district councils, Swindon Borough Council, Business Link for Berkshire and Wiltshire, Wiltshire Learning and Skills Council and Community First, an organisation representing voluntary and community groups.

It will be interesting to see how effective the public sector will spend this money. According to BT, the budget is for initiatives such as the "development of world class broadband content; distance learning; the promotion of teleworking; business support, including a voucher scheme for e-business products; community initiatives, such as the development of community web web sites; and marketing activities."

Do you really think that local councils and government agencies, even if they are the good burghers of Wiltshire, are capable of providing "world class business content"? Do community websites really need funding?

Quibbles aside, this is the fifth of 30 public-private partnerships BT is setting in motion to accelerate ADSL roll-out. Entirely selfishly, this writer has his fingers crossed that rural Kent makes it onto the list.

If you live in Wiltshire you may want to know if your exchange is to get the ADSL treatment. Here is BT's list of upgrades:

At least 11 BT exchanges in Wiltshire will be upgraded in two phases by the end of the year as a result of the three-year initiative. Exchanges at Chiseldon, Keevil, Bromham, Pewsey, Westbury and Wilton will be providing broadband services by early November, whilst those at Purton, Cricklade, Seend, Amesbury and Hawthorn will have been upgraded before Christmas.

Broadband installation work is also taking place at another nine BT exchanges in the county. They will 'go live' later this year. They are: Corsham, Malmesbury, Wootton Bassett, Stratton St Margaret, Bradenstoke, South Cerney, Highworth, Sherston and Warminster.

Early next year, six more exchanges will be considered for possible upgrading as the partnership increases the demand for broadband. ®

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