The Countryside Agency has begun its campaign to ramp-up broadband coverage in the rural areas of the UK.

Launching this, Countryside Agency chief executive Richard Wakeford said today: "With broadband suppliers unlikely to get all the UK online, it is up to rural communities to work together with funding partners and suppliers to get themselves on to the superhighway."

The Agency reveals that only seven per cent of villages have broadband access, but the Agency believes that knowledge is power. It has launched a best-practice study to identify ways in which rural communities can help ensure they don't miss out on the economic opportunities of broadband access.

"Broadband is vital if we are to help many rural areas regenerate and survive. It allows local business access to markets and services, provides better training opportunities for local people, stimulates the growth of community organizations, and encourages young people to stay within their own communities," he said.

BT is to begin adding more broadband (ADSL-enabled) exchanges, announcing dates for new exchanges to be so-enabled in the coming weeks.

In December, BT will enable exchanges in Burntisland, Drumoak, Coalisland, Histon, Whitchurch , Mayfield, Glencarse Penhow, Milnthorpe, Portstewart and Treharris, Beaulieu, Earls, Barton, Scone, and The Lee. In January, the company will enable exchanges in 29 more areas.

The Agency wants the Radiocommunications Agency to release more of the wireless spectrum in order to widen the opportunities for LAN and WAN-based wireless solutions to bring rural communities online. It also wants Regional Development Agencies to focus their efforts in rural areas to bring broadband to communities.

Government also has a part to play. It should set realistic budget targets and goals, clarify State Aid regulations; and make sure that the forthcoming Regional Aggregations Boards emphasise demand for broadband in rural areas.