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Special report: Holey argument, Batman!

Satellite broadband an 'alternative'? We think not

Small businesses in rural areas, which have been waiting for broadband services to reach them, may be disappointed by BT's high charges for its new satellite broadband services.

The pricing, announced this week, will mean many rural companies, which have thus far missed out on broadband, will have to shell out monthly connection fees (to a single computer) of £69.99 and a massive one-off installation charge of £899 before they receive the much-hyped services.

Small companies with up to four PCs will have to sign up to the Business Satellite 500/4 for £139.99 a month and face a gargantuan installation fee of £1,299.

The service will initially be available in the Scottish Highlands and Northern Ireland.

Thankfully there is light at the end of the tunnel for Scottish firms, which will be able to benefit from the Highland and Islands registry fund.

The £250,000 fund will help companies meet the one-off installation fee, leaving businesses to find just the monthly payment fees.

BT said the price was representative of the "complex installation procedures" involved, which include the need for a satellite dish and indoor broadband unit, but that will hold little weight with companies which do not qualify under the fund and cannot, therefore, afford the services.

It holds even less weight when compared with other providers. We found that BT has the second most expensive monthly fee and, barring one firm — I-Sat — which curiously refused to give us any idea of installation overheads, had a vastly higher installation charge. Of course BT will point to the cost and quality of the equipment, but still these are big figures.

Other firms listed in our tables (pictured) are Cedar, Isotrenic broadband and Tiscalisat.

BT's services should be made available to the rest of the UK from Spring 2002.


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