THE long simmering tension between British Telecom and rural business leaders campaigning for better Internet service in rural areas has burst into an angry row with allegations that the telephone company never had any intention of widening its IT broadband network.
Broadband gives much quicker and more flexible access to the net but, so far, the necessary technical upgrades needed to supply it has only been carried out in urban telephone exchanges.
Earlier this year, the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) lead a consortium of country organisations into a campaign for the conversion of more rural exchanges. But yesterday it claimed that BT never had any intention of upgrading more than 2,000 town and city exchanges.
Dr Charles Trotman, the CLA rural economy adviser, commented: "The time has come to announce that BT never intends to ADSL enable more than 2000 exchanges. Rural businesses are being misled into thinking that ADSL Broadband is around the corner.
"This makes it very difficult for rural businesses to make informed business decisions. In this day and age, broadband is a must for many businesses. Without it they will not be able to compete.
"The Government wants to make Britain the best place to do business online. This latest development seems to suggest that rural areas cannot be part of this objective."
The association will make a strong protest against the BT policy at a rural broadband conference being organised by the Department of Trade and Industry on November 21.