The project began two years ago and involved several Ofcom interventions, but the service has now officially launched and already has 50 customers.
Dr David Lewis, managing director of Rutland Telecom, said: ‘We found that any company could do, on a smaller scale, what Carphone Warehouse has done and take over BT’s network.’
Mark Melluish, the company’s director, added: ‘For the first time in UK telecommunications history, the telephone lines of customers are completely cut off from the local BT exchange.’
BT said it was ‘delighted to help Rutland Telecom’, but hoped it would allow other service providers access to its network, expressing concerns that ‘a local monopoly’ could develop.
However, Rutland Telecom has proved popular with consumers, with 40 other rural community groups approaching it to inquire about setting up services in other areas. The company plans to launch similar schemes in Wales and Leicestershire.
Rutland Telecom has also been given a Business Achievement Award by the Chartered Management Institute for its outstanding achievement in bringing next-generation broadband to a rural community.
Currently, it’s not cost-effective for big commercial firms to roll out schemes in rural areas, leaving many country spots with no broadband coverage or very slow speeds.
The Government has pledged to provide a minimum speed of 2MBps to all homes by 2012, but this is considered far too slow by many users. It’s estimated that one-third of the country won’t be served by next-generation broadband, which could offer speeds of at least 25MBps.
Rural groups have called for the Government to reassess the need for publicly funded broadband. The CLA‘s Dr Charles Trotman commented: ‘Without that money, the rural/urban digital divide will extend, and that will have a significantly adverse impact on the economy.’
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