Library Wi-Fi trials primed to launch

With broadband available in just 15 percent of rural villages, the government is exploring innovative ways of boosting coverage

High-speed wireless networks will be set up at a number of UK libraries as part of a government experiment into methods of increasing broadband coverage in remote and rural areas.

E-commerce minister Stephen Timms announced during his speech at the "Revolution at the Edge: Broadband Networks and Innovation" conference in London on Wednesday that the trials would start soon.

"Making every library into a Wi-Fi hot spot would be a good way of using rural libraries to extend broadband availability," Timms told the conference, which was organised by the Access to Broadband Campaign.

The minister for energy, e-commerce and postal services added that a series of pilot library hot spots are been planned by the Department of Trade and Industry in cooperation with other departments.

This initiative is just one part of the government's drive to increase broadband availability in rural areas, Timms said.

Broadband take-up and availability has boomed over the last 18 months or so. Currently, over 85 percent of the population can get a high-speed Internet connection, with more than three million homes and small businesses having signed up.

Timms, though, admitted that many parts of the UK are still missing out. He said that just 15 percent of rural villages and 4 percent of the most remote areas have access to broadband, as telcos such as BT don't think it is economically viable for them to offer their services there.

During his speech, Timms also said the UK needed a roadmap for its journey towards the rollout of much faster broadband services than those available today.