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Broadband spreading

Government hits targets, but home users may still have some wait

The government yesterday announced it had reached its target of getting 6,000 online centres up and running by the end of the year, putting it slightly ahead of schedule. Meanwhile BT has promised its broadband services would reach at least 80 percent of the country within the next three years.

But the path to widespread broadband takeup has not always run so smoothly. Earlier this month watchdog Consumers International criticised the government's online services claiming most were useless and misleading.

Yesterday's announcement now means that over 2,000 public libraries and community centres are equipped with broadband technologies. However, the government recognised that schools are still an area that needs addressing.

"More powerful software and content-rich multimedia content is being developed, which provides the means to really engage learners and increase the effectiveness of ICT in raising standards. But schools need broadband to access these," said Ivan Lewis, Minister for adult skills and learning.

And for those people who want broadband at home there could still be some wait. BT has received over 200,000 names through its registration scheme but has so far only upgraded one exchange.

"We are upgrading 17 more exchanges as we speak and hopefully will gain enough interest to see all of the exchanges listed eventually upgraded," said a spokesman at BT.

Based on the current momentum, BT believes it will roll out its services to around 80 percent of households by the end of 2005 and is developing ways to overcome exchange upgrade problems.

"We are working on managing the excessive sound interference level that appears when a household is too far from an enabled exchange. In addition there will be other innovative technological and business model advances such as satellite and wireless broadband, which we believe with further increase the number of households who live in broadband enabled areas," said Pierre Danon, BT board director at yesterday's e-envoys e-summit in London.

For details of your nearest government ICT centre call free phone 0800 771 234. To register your interest in getting your area upgraded to ADSL, click here.

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