Businesses looking for high speed internet access in areas where ADSL and cable are unavailable could be helped by two new schemes.
A £1.6m project has been set up to fund rural broadband access for smaller businesses by a coalition of regional development agencies (RDA) while BT has separately agreed deals with other government agencies to sponsor future ADSL upgrades of selected local exchanges.
The first set of funds, provided by the South East, South West, East Midlands and Northern Ireland RDAs, will be used to subsidise the first year costs of businesses signing up for broadband access using technologies other than cable or DSL. These include satellite, mesh radio and laser - or any other providing connectivity at ADSL levels.
Called the Remote Area Broadband Inclusion Trial (Rabbit), the project will provide businesses with between £700-£1,066 or the first 12 months' cost, whichever is cheapest. Each RDA has set its own thresholds.
The project will go live at the end of August and run until the end of 2003. It hopes to support up to 1,500 firms.
In return, those applying must be willing to share their experiences with the organisation through quarterly questionnaires and, in some cases, telephone or face-to-face interviews.
"We want to build a database showing which technology is best suited to what the business wants to use broadband for," Tim Watton, Rabbit programme manager, told vnunet.com.
"It will also help us make better-informed decisions in the future on where and how to spend public money to promote broadband," he added.
Businesses can enquire about using the scheme via a third party such as a reseller or systems integrator, but must complete the application form themselves to be eligible.
If a firm sign up for the scheme but then finds that DSL services become available in their area and switch technologies before the end of the subsidised 12-month period, they may be asked to repay all or part of the grant.
Meanwhile, BT has won more public sector subsidies for a six-month, multisite trial of new broadband ADSL exchange equipment. This can use existing transmission links into BT's internet backbone and can be deployed in much smaller units than currently - as few as 16 users per site.
Starting this autumn, the trials will be sponsored by the Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Gwynedd County Council, Denbighshire County Council, the East of England Development Agency, the New Forest Business Partnership and Omagh District council.
"We are determined to spread the benefits that broadband can bring as widely as possible, but we have to do so in ways that make good business sense," said John Davies, chief operations officer at BT Wholesale.
"This sort of innovative partnership approach may well help us do that by unleashing innovative financing schemes, and I am confident we will learn a great deal from these trials."
AMD's Zen chip roll-out continues with the focus on high-power embedded applications
And becomes the team's executive chairman to boot
'Whatever the causes of political polarisation today, it is not social media or the internet,' claims Dr Grant Blank
Tesla founder leaves OpenAI group - while Valve Software's Gabe Newell joins