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MPs call for action to ensure the 'rural divide' is closed
Wednesday 16 July 2003 16:52:00 by Andrew Ferguson

BBC News Online carries the news that a group of MPs who form the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee has just finished an investigation into rural broadband provision. Much of what is said was said in public last week at the Access to Broadband Campaign conference.

For those in the rural, or in many peoples eyes, those outside the major urban areas the MPs comments are a good sign, if somewhat later than many would have liked. The main thrust of the comments is towards the problems that will be created as more government processes are carried out online and rural businesses lack cheap access to these systems.

The Regional Development Agencies are able to help now, but their hands are tied in what help they can provide in many cases, apparently one solution that would untie RDAs hands is for the government do declare broadband 'a service of general economic interest'.

The real question is, how long before something positive happens? The government has a target of 'broadband britain' in 2005, though it is still open to debate whether the target will be reached. One valid worry is that the target may simply be met by saying that as the UK has satellite coverage the target is already met. Certainly creating 'broadband britain' should not be seen as a blank cheque for BT to rollout DSL technologies, the licence holders for wireless bands need to get moving and rolling services out to businesses and public alike. One must not forget that the companies remaining from the original vision for a new local loop in the UK NTL/Telewest are currently doing visibly less than many other companies to reach rural areas.

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