From not spots to hotspots

Soon Cornish fishing villages, obscure parts of Northumberland and even North Yorkshire could be home to ultra fast broadband, as culture secretary Jeremy Hunt unveiled a £530m fund for broadband starved communities.

With interest from consumers and telecoms providers, high-speed internet around the country could be a reality within four years.

The money is expected to be diverted from the BBC and will be shared among 40 areas. After 2015 a further £300m has been pledged.

The idea is for all 25 million UK homes to have a minimum broadband capability of 2Mbps, making Skype phone calls or watching iPlayer possible from even the most remote of locations. Ideally, 90% of homes will be able to get speeds of over 24Mbps, which would allow several computers the capacity to download video simultaneously on a single line.

'It's whether you believe that the most important thing is to roll out fibre at speed in the UK to help recover from economic recession,' says Olivia Garfield, chief executive of BT's Openreach division. She believes that universal broadband access is possible, but only if all available technologies are used.

Many regions have already shown an appetite for the scheme, with Cornwall already raising £132m to reach up to 90% of homes by 2014. BT are the main players, building the network and providing £79m of the funding, with the rest coming from Europe.

The main concerns are for resources, and for the copper fibres needed not being able to reach everywhere. Tim Watkins, head of sales for western Europe at Huawei, a company that would like to supply equipment for the network, says the final 10% of homes will be reached by a combination of satellite and mobile phone masts. 'If you want to deliver high-speed broadband services to rural areas with six farmers, it's never going to be achieved with just fibre,' he says.

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