BT competition seeks out UK's next fibre hotspots

Communities that are keen to obtain fibre-based broadband are being asked to publicly declare their desire for high-speed net access.

BT will log responses to a website to get a better idea of the potential demand for fibre-based services.

The telecoms firm said the results would influence its future plans on where it deploys the technology.

BT said it would commit to wire up the five exchanges showing the highest demand for fibre.

It said this could mean that commercially viable exchanges would be the first to get the fibre-based service or that exchanges thought to be non-viable would be added to its deployment plans.

The survey, dubbed The Race to Infinity, will start early this month and run until the end of the year.

BT has set up a website through which individuals and communities can express their desire to have their area fibred up.

The site will host a leader board showing which exchanges are gathering the most votes.

BT is committed to putting £2.5bn into next-generation broadband; the target is to extend its reach to 70% of homes in the UK. Fibre will be connected to these homes with different technologies.

Some will get fibre direct to their home (known as FTTH) but others will have the cables connected to a street cabinet (FTTC) and the last few metres will be over old-fashioned copper cables.

Andrew Ferguson, editor of broadband news site ThinkBroadband, said the scheme had superficial similarities to a campaign BT carried out when broadband was initially being rolled out.

"While that campaign saw thousands of exchanges enabled, the current aim for this survey is to enable five exchange areas for FTTC by 2012 at the latest," he said.

Campaigners involved in the first BT broadband survey were starting to re-emerge and get involved all over again, said Mr Ferguson.

He pointed out that although The Race to Infinity was a BT Retail campaign, other internet service providers were not banned from taking part and could table their own suggestions for exchanges to be connected up.

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