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Agenda set for rural broadband push

Putting all the major players in the same room could lead to more action on closing the broadband divide
Written by Graeme Wearden, Contributor

Government, industry and rural campaigners will come together at an event next month that will attempt to drive forward the Broadband Britain agenda.

The Rural and Regional Broadband Conference will take place in London on 9 July. It has been organised by the Access to Broadband Campaign (ABC), a group of community broadband activists who want to accelerate the rollout of high speed Internet access throughout the UK.

Speakers at the event will include representatives from the Radiocommunications Agency -- reflecting ABC's belief that wireless is the key to closing the broadband divide -- the Broadband Stakeholder Group, several telecoms firms, and a selection of community network projects.

The conference will provide a particular focus upon wireless as a "last mile" broadband solution for remote and rural areas," John Wilson, one of the ABC founders told ZDNet UK. "We will explore the way ahead and address obstacles such as radio spectrum regulations and access to backhaul for community projects," he added.

The last year has seen considerable progress in the drive to create a vibrant broadband market in the UK, with take-up soaring and prices falling.

Coverage, though, is still a major problem, with many millions of homes and businesses unable to connect to BT's ADSL network or to the cable networks of NTL or Telewest.

There is understood to be growing concern at a senior level about this issue, with the government's strategy on this issue being repeatedly criticised in parliament.

According to ABC, the solution to the problem is for all the stakeholders to work closely together to agree on a plan of action for the future.

"The UK has a real opportunity to take a European lead -- with increasing government recognition of the strategic role of Broadband Fixed Wireless Access for remote and rural areas, community broadband initiatives across the UK regions, and a range of industry players wishing to accelerate the agenda. But a proactive approach is needed to remove obstacles, bring all of this energy together, and allow new partnerships to move ahead positively," Wilson explained.

Community broadband groups that will be represented at the conference include Edenfaster and Buckfastleigh Broadband -- both examples of how grass roots activism can succeed where telcos have been found wanting.

The keynote speech will be delivered by Professor Peter Cochrane, chief technologist of ConceptLabs and formerly chief technologist at BT.

A full copy of the agenda for the Rural and Regional Broadband conference can be seen by clicking here. ABC said it is still looking for sponsorship partners.

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