BT chief executive Ben Verwaayen last night reiterated his promise to have five million broadband customers by 2006, but experts warned that immediate action is needed to address the problem of broadband coverage in the UK.
Speaking at the annual communications industry dinner at the TMA show in Brighton, Verwaayen maintained that the company's push for broadband subscribers is a signal that "everyone needs broadband".
He suggested that the fast internet technology is essential for the economic growth of both BT and the UK.
But Keith Todd, chairman of the Broadband Stakeholders Group, warned that the telecoms industry and government will come under increasing pressure to tackle the problem of one in three UK households still being unable to get access to affordable broadband.
"Over the next few months it is important that government, industry and regional bodies get together to discuss how we can target coverage," he said. "This is a problem that must be addressed now."
Todd highlighted the importance of regional development agencies in driving the roll-out of high speed internet access to parts of the UK where BT and the cable companies do not yet see a commercial market.
He explained that the group had "identified parts of Britain that will not get broadband by market means alone".
But the government and BT have both insisted that the roll-out must be market-driven, leading to criticism that many rural and remote parts of the UK will wait years before affordable broadband becomes a reality.
Todd urged delegates and the public to sign up to BT's pre-registration scheme where people who cannot get broadband in their area can register their interest in subscribing to the technology.
If trigger-levels are met, the telco has promised to upgrade the local exchange.
Despite his many concerns, Todd said that he sees a bright future for broadband Britain following indications that the UK will have two million broadband subscribers by next summer.
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