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Rural European communities to get free broadband

As part of the European Commission’s efforts to bridge the high-speed digital divide in Europe, one hundred rural communities are to get broadband – for free!

Headed by telecommunications and space exploration firm, EADS Astrium, the TWISTER consortium was set up by 12 leading European companies and organisations, with 5m euros of backing from the European Commission.

Broadband access at competitive prices is a key enabler for modern public services, such as e-government, e-learning, e-health and for a dynamic business environment.

By linking local wireless networks to two-way broadband satellite connections, the group intends to provide access and services for millions of users in far-flung, rural communities across the European Union.

So far, 30-40 European regions, including areas in Spain, France, Sweden, Poland, Greece and Malta, have been earmarked for broadband delivery.

Other communities should be identified within the coming months.

Over the next three years, the consortium plans to set up and run over 100 "validation sites" across Europe.

These “validation” sites will support innovative applications to meet the specific needs of rural user communities in the domains of agriculture, education, community services, health care and e-business,” explained the TWISTER consortium in an announcement earlier this month.

A number of these “validation sites” will be located in the UK and Ireland, but actual sites have yet to be identified, according to Philippe Bodart, chief exec of satellite outfit Aramiska, one of twelve companies in the TWISTER consortium.

Those communities that are taking part in the project can expect to receive free broadband for up to 18 months.

The plan is to deliver the service via two-way satellite access for the backhaul, while those within each community are connected by Wi-Fi.

After that, the consortium hopes that the services can be run on a commercial basis, delivering broadband at prices in sync with ADSL-based services.

The European Commission has made universal availability of affordable broadband a priority, but in every European country it is finding that there are areas where it simply isn't economic for commercial Telco’s to offer their services.

Several projects, such as the successful ACT NOW scheme in Cornwall, have benefited from European funding in recent years.

(And just in case your wondering, TWISTER, stands for Terrestrial Wireless Infrastructure integrated with Satellite Telecommunications for E-Rural project. Catchy, eh?)

Sources: EADS Space,, The Register, ZDNet

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