A MULTI-MILLION pound plan to install high-speed wireless broadband across Teesdale and Weardale would bring benefits to both businesses and residents, it is hoped.

Broadband access has been a problem in many areas of Teesdale and Weardale.

Users need to live close to a broadband-enabled exchange and their telephone lines also need to be upgraded.

At a meeting of the Teesdale Parish Forum this week, Alastair Dinwiddie, from Aladin Enterprises, which has been researching a solution to broadband in the area, spoke to members of parish councils about the proposal, which could be up and running within 15 months, subject to funding. The wireless system would be operated by Durham Net, which is bidding for a grant from regional development agency One NorthEast, towards the set-up costs.

The broadband delivered could eventually have a capacity of 50 megabytes and initially have a top speed of ten megabytes.

Mr Dinwiddie, who completed his investigations with the help of the West Durham Rural Pathfinder Broadband Project, said: "The price for the internet would be competitive, so you would be looking at about £20 or £30 a month. What it would do is bring a solution to all the areas that haven't got a solution and provide existing users with a much better service."

Anne Allen, from the Barnard Castle Vision, a project whose aim is to attract investment to the town over the next 20 years, said: "Broadband is going to be critical in the future, not just for businesses, but also for residents.

"It's something people are going to grow up with, so it is essential that people in the area will be able to access it.

"It's also important that we get the best possible broadband, especially if people are going to be doing things such as watching movies and sending big files over the internet."

Dave Bottoms, chairman of Hutton Magna Parish Council, which has been campaigning for broadband in the village, said: "I am cautiously encouraged by the news, but I have slight concerns about how realistic the time scale is, as well as the fact that the funding for this has not yet been agreed."