After running a series of trials in broadband blackspots around the UK, BT has managed to extend the reach of its ADSL products.
At present, a 512Kbps ADSL connection usually won't work over a line longer than 6km. This means that around 4 percent of homes and businesses -- around 1,000,000 potential customers -- can't get the service despite being located in an area that has been broadband-enabled by BT.
BT says it has now dropped this requirement and removed the limit imposed by the length of the line for 512Kbps services. The company says it is confident that 99.4 percent of the entire UK population will be able to get broadband via their phone line by the summer of 2005, when it will have completed its programme of upgrading local exchanges to offer ADSL.
"Who do you know who can't get the four main analogue TV channels with decent reception? That's the level of coverage we'll have," said BT Wholesale spokesman Francis King.
The remaining 0.6 percent of the population will be located in areas where BT still hasn't upgraded the local telephone exchange to support ADSL, or will have a telephone line and internal wiring that is in too poor a condition to support a high-speed connection.
BT will begin accepting orders on 6 September from people who have previously failed the line length test. Internet service providers are already getting ready to snap up these additional million potential customers.
"This is going to benefit a lot of people who are on the fringe of broadband coverage," said a spokesman for Eclipse Internet, which began accepting advance orders on Wednesday afternoon.
As well as making 512Kbps available to virtually the whole population, the success of BT's trials also means that 1Mbps ADSL will now work over 6km -- compared to a previous limit of 4km.
The 512Kbps line limit has generally affected people in rural locations, where BT's telephone exchanges cover a wider area than exchanges in metropolitan locations. Wednesday's announcement is good news for them, and also for people in Milton Keynes where broadband availability is below average. The Milton Keynes traffic grid system means that telephone lines often have to take a circuitous route, meaning an unusually high number are longer than 6km.
BT also announced on Wednesday that it has connected its three-millionth wholesale broadband customer.