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The UK has more than three million broadband punters, according to official figures released today.

Of course, Oftel's definition of broadband - and hence its arrival at this important milestone - is generous to say the least and refers to always-on Internet connections offering download speeds of between 128 kbit/s and 2 mbit/s.

Some critics claim this woolly definition from an equally woolly (and soon to be extinct) watchdog merely fudges the figures. Indeed, the prickly matter of a "meaningful" industry-wide definition of broadband was discussed at some length during last month's broadband inquiry by the Trade and Industry Select Committee.

In particular, the Consumers' Association (CA) said punters needed a clear definition of broadband to prevent them from being misled, insisting that there is "widespread confusion about the term 'broadband'".

It was particularly critical of Oftel claiming that its definition of broadband (see above) only served to confuse consumers who found it difficult to compare different products and providers.

Indeed, until a 'meaningful' definition is agreed upon the debate will rumble on. In the meantime, though, what's clear is there really seems to be an appetite for faster, always-on Net services with new orders racking up at more than 40,000 a week.

Indeed, over the last year the number of homes with high-speed Net services has more than doubled, helping to make broadband one of the fastest-growing new technologies around.

Part of that is down to BT increasing the availability of broadband by converting more and more exchanges to ADSL. With availability reported to be at around 80 per cent, there is little wonder the take-up rate for ADSL is outstripping demand for cable modems by a factor of 3 to 1.

The research also found that half of UK homes and two-thirds of UK businesses are now online. ®

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