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Every community in Scotland will be hooked up to affordable broadband by the end of 2005 following a £30m deal between the Scottish Executive and dominant UK telco BT.

As part of the deal BT - which is stumping up around half of the cash - will convert 378 exchanges giving 51,000 households and 5,400 businesses access to broadband. A further 21 exchanges in the Western Isles are being broadband-enabled via a publicly-funded wireless broadband project.

Without the cash these commercially unviable exchanges would not have supported enough end users to justify the investment.

Announcing the deal Enterprise Minister Jim Wallace said that the Scottish Executive was "stepping in" to help provide broadband where the commercial market won't deliver.

"We made a commitment in our Partnership Agreement to ensure that every community in Scotland has access to broadband by the end of 2005," he said. "We are now well on the way to delivering on this.

"We have made it clear again and again that economic growth is our top priority. By providing access to broadband technology in Scotland and the huge benefits it brings, we are putting in place an important business and educational tool to facilitate economic growth in every community."

In February, Northern Ireland claimed to have achieved 100 per cent broadband coverage after public sector cash was chucked at BT to help wire-up commercially unviable exchanges. ®

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