BT: Education key to broadband

Four more Cornish local exchanges will be ADSL-enabled as local businesses flock to sign up for broadband, but it is education that makes the difference, says BT

The take-up of broadband is much greater if businesses are educated about the benefits of a high-speed Internet connection, according to BT.

On Monday the telco hailed the success of its Actnow project in Cornwall, which it said was attracting new users to broadband at a rate much greater than the UK average. As a result, BT is expanding the project by upgrading another four Cornish exchanges to offer ADSL.

Actnow -- Access for Cornwall through Telecommunications for New Opportunities Worldwide -- is a £10m joint partnership between BT and a number of public bodies, including the European Regional Development Council, which contributed over £5m to the project.

Under the project, an initial six local exchanges that would not otherwise have been upgraded to ADSL were broadband-enabled, with three more upgraded a few months later.

Crucially, though, money was also spent on what BT at the time called a "massive educational process" to persuade firms to sign up. Some local companies were also given subsidised support and equipment to further encourage them.

Nine months after Actnow began, BT has calculated that the exchanges involved in the scheme have gained as many broadband users as similar rural exchanges manage to attract in 15 months. It now aims to upgrade another four exchanges -- St Ives, Bude, Saltash and Penryn -- by early February.

BT hopes that other local authorities will look to Actnow as an example of how to bring broadband to their areas.

"This new research demonstrates what a success Actnow has been and shows what can be achieved through partnerships. It would be great if other local and regional authorities would study and learn from the Cornish experience if they want to bring the benefits of broadband to their area," said Alison Ritchie, BT's chief broadband officer, in a statement.

"BT, along with every other operator, faces tough challenges in rolling out broadband to rural areas but this project shows what can be achieved if people work with us," Ritchie added.

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