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UK govt calls for 100% broadband coverage by 2005

Easy to say, harder to do

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Everyone in the UK should be able to access broadband by the end of 2005.

So says eminister Stephen Timms, who reckons that a constructive, working together kind of approach will help roll out high-speed Net access to those living in rural and semi-rural areas.

Addressing Cambridge MIT Institute's third Annual Competitiveness Summit in Newcastle-upon-Tyne yesterday, the eminister said: "Today I am calling for us to take the next major step and deliver broadband availability to every community by the end of 2005 - this is a challenging target but one which can be attained.

"Better partnerships between the broadband industry, Government, the regions, local government and local communities will allow every community to experience the same advantages broadband brings to some rural communities already - and in a far shorter timescale than ever envisaged

"We have made good progress - between ADSL and cable, broadband is now available to 80 per cent of UK households, and that is almost certain to rise to 90 per cent next year - but more can and should be done.

"Of course we cannot begin to reach this target without the essential contribution of the broadband industry.

"That is why today I am calling on them to work even more closely with us, to identify the challenges ahead so that between us we can take the next big stride in achieving a common goal - 100 per cent broadband availability by the end of 2005.

"This is an ambitious target but I am confident that we can make available the business, community and individual benefits of broadband to every community far earlier than we previously thought," he said.

With the Government not prepared to dip its hand into its own pocket (you mean our pockets - Ed) to help fund directly the roll-out, some critics claim Timms' new target is little more than grandstanding. Others point out that the UK already has 100 per cent broadband access - by satellite. The problem, they say, is that it is just too expensive compared to ADSL or cable.

Freeserve, though, reckons the eminister has his finger on the wrong pulse insisting that the continued high price of broadband is preventing high speed Net access from becoming a mass market product.

Said the ISP in a statement: "What's the point of rolling out broadband to 100 per cent of the population if the demand isn't there? Roll out isn't the main issue. Lets sort out demand and bring the prices down. Consumers want significant service and price improvements before they move across to broadband en masse and for that to happen we need to see the industry once and for all freed of its reliance on a single, dominant player that forces us to make do with 'one size fits all' wholesale products." ®

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