99 per cent broadband access 'within weeks'

Virtually the whole of Britain will soon have access to broadband technology, the Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt said today as she outlined the Government's "digital strategy".

Virtually the whole of Britain will soon have access to broadband technology, the Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt said today as she outlined the Government's "digital strategy".

Ms Hewitt said the target had been to make sure 99 per cent of the population could potentially access broadband.

She told a meeting of business leaders at 10 Downing Street: "We will be there within a matter simply of weeks - quite an extraordinary achievement. We have seen the prices fall and continuing to fall and take-up rising extraordinarily fast and continuing to rise."

She published the strategy aimed at making the UK "truly world class" in the field.

She said it was designed to "make sure our nation as a whole is at ease with the online world".

The digital strategy includes initiatives such as ensuring all secondary school pupils - including those from poorer families - have access to computers at home.

The Government also announced a "Digital Challenge" to local councils, with the winning authority given cash help to put its services online while making sure all can access them.

A national internet safety centre will help curb paedophile activity on the net and combat other online crime, such as money laundering and banking fraud.

Ministers said they were also determined to bridge the "digital divide", making sure those who saw no relevance in the new technologies, or could not afford them, were brought into the information technology age.

And they promised more help for the disabled in accessing new technology.

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