Help sought as campaigners push the rural agenda

The Access To Broadband Campaign wants to bring government, industry and communities together to tackle the broadband divide, and corporations are already showing an interest

A group of rural broadband campaigners are gearing up to organise a major conference to debate the way forward in fighting the broadband divide.

The Access To Broadband Campaign (ABC) will hold the Rural and Regional Broadband Conference in London on 9 July. It is an opportunity, according to ABC, for the whole of the broadband sector to meet and discuss possible ways of closing this gap.

"The conference is a platform for community groups, government representatives, regulators and industry figures to meet and debate, and take part in in-depth workshops," explained John Wilson, one of ABC's founder members.

Affordable broadband is still unavailable to around 30 percent of the UK population.

ABC said it is keen to hear from anyone who would be interested in participating in or sponsoring the event, or other parts of its work. ZDNet UK understands that corporate sponsors are already showing an interest in supporting ABC as a way of addressing the broadband divide.

ABC's Web site should go live early next week -- in the meantime, Wilson's Web site contains details of how other countries have dealt with rural broadband issues.

The organisation will also be represented at The Wireless LAN Event, which takes place on 22-23 May, 2003, at Olympia, London.

Although the government has provided £30m for regional development agencies (RDAs) to work with broadband and funds both the Broadband Stakeholder Group and the Broadband Task Force, there is no similar financial support available for private individuals who are pioneering the rollout of high-speed networks in rural areas.

Ironically, it is these people who are increasingly setting the agenda within the UK's broadband space, advising RDAs and serving on important committees.

ABC is aiming to hold one event each three months, and several RDAs are understood to be keen to be involved.

ZDNet UK will be reporting from The Wireless LAN Event next week, including any further details of ABC's Rural and Regional Broadband Conference.

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