Rural broadband conference sunk by funding squeeze

Are Britain's broadband battles over? The Access to Broadband Campaign says no, but government and industry appear to disagree

Rural campaigners have failed to persuade government and industry that the non-availability of faster broadband services across the UK is a serious issue that needs addressing.

The ABC had hoped to run a conference on Tuesday to debate the new broadband divide. But the organisation announced late last week that the event has been pulled, due to lack of funding.

ABC is concerned that while people in urban areas can now get 8Mbps Internet connections, and may soon be able to get 20Mbps or even faster over ADSL2+, those in more rural and remote places often cannot get more than 512Kbps today and are less likely to see faster services in the future.

"This country and some others in the EU with incumbent 'copper' telcos risk playing broadband second fiddle for years to come. We are ignoring the economic threats in the new industrial revolution that is the knowledge economy," claimed ABC's Lindsey Annison.

Over the past few years, rural activists such as ABC have played an important role in driving the rollout of broadband across the UK. Just a couple of years ago, politicians and telcos appeared to be very keen to learn from rural campaigners. Some of whom had set up their own high-speed networks replacing BT, which they deemed uneconomic for broadband.

But, with basic broadband coverage around the 99 percent mark, there appears to be a broad consensus that the job of building the infrastructure for Broadband Britain is complete.

A government-backed conference, called The Broadband Britain Summit 2005, is taking place on Monday and will discuss how the UK can best take advantage of today's high-speed networks.

BT admitted earlier this month that it has a different agenda to ABC for future broadband rollout in the UK and promised that its forthcoming 8Mbps services will be available "across the country".