AN EDEN couple who were asked to pay £45,000 by BT to install broadband internet to their home say they are being unfairly penalised because of their rural location.

Ray and Frei Walker who run Hall Croft bed and breakfast in Dufton, said they were staggered to learn of the installation fee — even though neighbours living just yards away have broadband.

“We were astonished to find out just how much it would cost, it doesn’t make any sense to us,” said Mr Walker.

“We’re certainly not going to be paying for it. Even if we did have the money we wouldn’t pay. Who on earth can afford that?”

In 2001, the Walkers installed a dial-up internet connection on their business phone line and ran a separate line for home use.

BT installed a digital access core system (DACS) on the telegraph pole outside their home, so the two lines could run through one wire.

But the DACS needs to be removed for broadband.

Mr Walker said: “BT are refusing to remove it. They said we can have broadband but they want to upgrade us to an even newer system which would involve building a new plant and installing new cables to our home.

“But we don’t want an upgrade like this. We just want the DACS taken off, so we can enjoy the same system as everyone else in the village. It might not be as fast a connection as they want us to have, but we are happy with it.”

Mr Walker said broadband wires were being improved nationally by BT at no cost to customers but Cumbria was missing out.

“As there are so few customers in rural areas, BT does not think it is worthwhile upgrading the systems. We’re left to pay for it ourselves.

“If they do this to me they are going to do it to other people. We need the internet to go about our daily lives.”

BT spokeswoman Emma Tennant said: “While £45,000 is extremely unusual, the capacity isn’t there to provide broadband quickly and easily to this customer.”

Peter Thornton, Lib-Dem parliamentary candidate for Penrith and the Border, said: “The Government is pressing ahead with high speed broadband but it is forgetting that many households here don’t get the basic service — that’s all Mr and Mrs Walker want.

“It is scandalous that individual subscribers are asked to bear the cost of bringing the network up to standard.”

Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron has called on the Government to ensure that the whole of South Lakeland will be connected.

Prime Minster Gordon Brown has said between five and 10 per cent of British homes will be left without high speed access.