E-commerce minister Stephen Timms wants 100 per cent broadband availability in the UK by the end of 2005, but the last four per cent of the country may prove a daunting challenge.
Timms admitted in a speech at the Cambridge MIT Institute's Competitiveness Summit in Newcastle that it was a challenging target, but said that it was attainable if government, public bodies and broadband providers work together.
Broadband services are currently available to 80 per cent of the UK and BT, the dominant player in the industry, expects to roll out its ADSL coverage to around 90 per cent of the country by the end of the year.
Most operators believe that this footprint can be extended to around 96 per cent without too much difficulty. But they warn that is the remaining four per cent that will cause the most problems unless there is serious input from the government.
While satellite could provide one answer for the remotest parts of the country, its price is considered "unpalatable", according to members of a Trade and Industry select committee examining broadband development in the UK.
Timms admitted that government input would be critical if broadband was to be made available to every UK community.
"The government would certainly play its part. During the next two years public services will be spending £1bn on broadband connectivity," he said.
"From January the Regional Aggregation Bodies will be using their combined demand and buying power to bring broadband to new and previously untenable areas.
"[And the] Regional Development Agencies will be spending or committing a further £235m to broadband development by 2006."
But MPs were told earlier this week that government departments are yet to agree to work together.
David Hendon, head of business relations at the Department of Trade and Industry, which is leading the government's broadband projects, warned the select committee that it wasn't that easy to get individual government departments and organisations to work together on aggregating broadband.
He indicated that the DTI had managed to sign up two major departments - the NHS and the Department for Education and Skills - for the government's public aggregation project which aims to deliver broadband around the UK.
David Edmonds, director general at industry regulator Oftel, also warned that the last four per cent of the country could need even more direct government funding if 100 per cent coverage is to become a reality.
"We are optimistic about [meeting] coverage but government cash may be needed for the last three or four per cent, but we are not sure," he said.
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