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Volume 407: debated on Wednesday 18 June 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what sums have been paid to (a) NTL and (b) BT to assist in the rollout of broadband services; when such payments were made; and if she will make a statement. [117716]

Certain Regional Development Agencies made payments from the (DTI's £30 million) broadband fund to BT in 2002 for Exchange Activate Trials to test a new approach to bring broadband ADSL technology to small exchanges across the UK, where previously it was not commercially viable.Under the Cornwall ActNow project, assisted by EC Objective 1 funding, BT received £237,225 from DTI between December 2001 and August 2002, as a result of a tender process to upgrade exchange for broadband in a region where such investment would also not be commercially viable.

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what representations she has received on the compatibility of public sector broadband with EU state aid rules; and if she will issue guidance on the application of state aid rules for broadband projects. [117720]

The state aid branch of the DTI provides advice to public authorities to ensure that interventions are compatible with EU state aid rules. The DTI-led public sector broadband aggregation project is being informed by advice from this unit.There are no specific state aid rules relating to broadband but further guidance on the application of the rules in general can be found at europe/stateaid.

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on the reasons for poor quality of band connections in rural areas. [118830]

7 per cent. of rural households have broadband access, compared with 72 per cent. of households across the country as a whole. Service providers have focussed initially on certain markets because—in the case of BT—more customers can be served within a given distance of an exchange in densely populated areas.I have now established a dedicated rural broadband team, working closely with Defra, to help promote the availability and take up of broadband in rural areas.