This Europe: Italian village puts faith in high-speed internet

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The Independent Online

The village of San Benedetto Belbo is famous for its production of Piedmontese nuts, its links with a novelist called Beppe Fenoglio and not much else - until yesterday.

Like thousands of pretty, isolated villages along the peninsula, it is dwindling away as the young flee for the city and the old die off.

But now the village hopes it has found a way to stop history in its tracks. It has become the country's first wi-fi community.

Wi-fi, or "wireless fidelity", is the simple yet revolutionary technology that is allowing businesses, libraries and small communities to offer blindingly fast internet service 24 hours a day without messy cables and dialling up.

A wi-fi "base station", essentially a well-located satellite transmitter, creates an electronic umbrella under which any computer with the right software can send and receive data at speeds of up to 11 megabits per second, about 40 times faster than a conventional modem.

"The village is very isolated," says Sergio Levrino, a manager with one of the firms that worked on the installation "This will answer the complaints of young people who leave saying they feel out of touch. It will give people the chance to work from their homes. It will bring the village back in touch with things."

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