BT has been accused of fudging figures to slow the rollout of broadband services to rural areas.

Research by Broadband4Britain and analysts at Ovum found applications from just 50 people were required to justify the enabling of a local exchange for broadband. This figure, claim the researchers, is far lower than that estimated by BTopenworld.

"BT has handed out figures on a piecemeal basis, but not a national one," said Broadband4Britain campaign manger Andy Williams. "For instance, they quoted a local campaign in south Wales a figure of 275 users."

BTopenworld denies it has been misleading users over the level of demand required to make it cost-effective to upgrade rural telephone exchanges to support ADSL broadband internet connections.

"We have never set a figure on this," said BTopenworld spokesman David Orr. "It is not that simple. The decision over whether an exchange should be converted for broadband includes many factors."

BTopenworld said it would be releasing 'figures' to determine exactly what will be required to set up ADSL (asymmetric digital subscriber line) exchanges. This is a little surprising, considering it said it could not give exact figures.

Broadband4Britain campaigners are now petitioning the government to increase broadband coverage in rural areas by 20 percent within the next year.

"This is a target that we feel, from talking to industry insiders, can be achieved," added Williams.

Those interested in getting a broadband connection in their area will find useful links on our June Print plus page.