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UK broadband access may be restricted because of laws in place to stop wireless networks from being shared illegally.

That is according to new research conducted by the University of East Anglia, which has suggested that attempts to increase high-speed internet access could be hampered by the legislation.

Entitled Law in the Last Mile: Sharing Internet Access Through WiFi, the research was carried out by IT and internet law lecturer Daithi Mac Sithigh and published in the online journal SCRIPTed.

In his report, Mr Mac Sithigh said that the laws need to be clarified because the current regulation of Wi-Fi sharing may not be the most appropriate.

He explained that while sharing, which involves a network being used by more than one person, does have its advantages, some people may be put off becoming involved if they are unsure about the associated "legalities".

Mr Mac Sithigh added: "Local communities trying to use wireless access to extend connectivity have faced objections from established industries that this is anti-competitive or a breach of contract.

"If the legal environment was more favourable to sharing it would play an important part in achieving the Digital Britain aim of inclusion and social goals of increased access."

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