Making rural broadband happen - as easy as ABC?

Can't get broadband in your area? Don't know where to turn? A new organisation is being created to address the problem

The challenge of bringing high-speed Web access to the whole of Britain will be taken up by a new organisation that is being set up by rural broadband pioneers and Internet campaigners.

Called ABC, the group aims to boost the rollout of broadband in remote and rural areas and has a particular focus on wireless. It has already been endorsed by the Broadband Stakeholder Group, and is expected to be formally launched this summer.

One of ABC's founders is Lindsey Annison, who is a driving force behind Edenfaster -- a community wireless broadband network being created in Cumbria.

Annison explained on Tuesday that the group was being created to help the many thousands of people who are desperate for broadband, adding that since Edenfaster began receiving publicity she had received literally thousands of emails from individuals looking for help and advice.

"ABC aims to support people who are broadband champions in their local area, and to get them out of my inbox," Annison said, speaking at a Wi-Fi event organised by Ecademy.

Annison added that ABC hopes to hold a conference focusing on the issue of "broadband in the regions" later this year.

Currently, at least 30 percent of the UK population cannot get affordable broadband because their local area is not served by BT's ADSL network or by NTL or Telewest.

ABC is also meant to be a think tank for users as well as government and industry, and hopes to develop "best practice" for the development of Broadband Britain.

John Wilson, secretary of Arwain -- a Welsh wireless broadband network -- is also a founder member of ABC, and he explained that individuals have a vital role to play in driving broadband rollout.

"Community activists were early adopters of Wi-Fi and pioneered community wireless networks. The first of these networks were free, but some of them -- such as Edenfaster and Arwain -- are now maturing into commercial propositions," Wilson told ZDNet UK News.

The other two founding members of ABC are Erol Ziya and Charlie Sands. Both were previously involved with the Campaign for Unmetered Telecommunications (CUT), a pressure group whose work led to the creation of the FRIACO tariff, which lets ISPs offer unlimited narrowband surfing for a fixed monthly fee.

"In the same way that CUT led to FRIACO and unmetered Internet access, ABC's agenda is to address the broadband digital divide and to find first mile solutions," explained Wilson.

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