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CLA fears broadband divide is leaving rural areas in 'Dark Ages'

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: September 30, 2013

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Pockets of the rural South West will remain locked in the technological Dark Ages due to failure in broadband delivery, according to the Country Land and Business Association (CLA).

The prediction comes after stinging criticism from a select committee of MPs over a lack of competition forced the Prime Minister to defend the Government's £1.2 billion investment in getting broadband to rural Britain.

Cornwall, Devon and Somerset have among the slowest broadband speeds in the country, but multi-million-pound publicly funded schemes are attempting to bridge the "digital divide".

BT has all the contracts, as well as the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Superfast Broadband scheme – which is funded by EU subsidies, rather than the UK government. It is hoped Cornwall will have 95 per cent of premises connected by next year.

The Connecting Devon and Somerset scheme, where a £94 million scheme is under way, run by the two county councils, BT and the Government's Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme, has a target of date of the end of 2016. However, concern remains over how quickly the service will be provided to all premises, particularly hard-to-reach areas, dubbed "not spots".

South West director of the CLA, John Mortimer, says in some cases BT and local authorities are hiding behind confidentiality and commercial sensitivity clauses that the Department of Communities and Local Government allowed to be put in place. This, he argues, means broadband providers, other than BT, cannot even begin to put together alternative proposals because they cannot find out where the so-called "not spots" are.

He said there was no possible "justification" for the remaining "not-spots" to be disadvantaged, particularly as almost all of it will fall on rural areas.

"The report by this influential Select Committee backs our long-held view that the system put in place by the DCMS will fail those communities and it will fail to meet the 2015 roll-out programme set by the Government," he added. "We appreciate that the solutions to delivering to the last 10% may not all be the same – but all deserve the same level of government support if the whole of the country is truly to enter the digital age."

The South West CLA is calling for more transparency plus clear and detailed information about 'not spots' so that plans can be put in place to plug the gaps.

David Cameron told regional journalists last week: "I think BT are doing a good job."

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3 comments

  • DavidT5000  |  October 01 2013, 10:42AM

    Good points well made. We have moved on from a decent internet connection being a luxury to effectively being an essential utility. If you are in business you have to file your VAT returns online, you have to do your payroll reporting online. If you are unemployed you need to use the online Universal Job Search. If you will receive Universal Credit and are self-employed you will be required to report monthly online on that. Online isn't an option its compulsory. Obviously if you are a farmer or a tourist attraction and so on you can't just up and move. If the government and other bodies insist on online reporting then the infrastructure has to be there without those affected having to make special arrangements. The Connecting Devon & Somerset programme appears to be severely underfunded. CD&S have recently published a "final coverage" map of what the superfast broadband rollout programme will have achieved by the time it is finished. They may well meet their target of 90%+ of premises connected but in geographical coverage it looks like barely more than 50% of the area. CD&S have promised a minimum of 2meg for everyone by the end of 2015. The problem being how this will be delivered and that 2meg is woefully inadequate as a minimum speed. Some areas are being offered subsidised satellite broadband solutions. However this simply does not work with many applications and has many other drawbacks. No point offering something that simply doesn't work in many cases. As the previous poster pointed out the CD&S scheme is shrouded in secrecy. It's impossible to find anything out about your exchange other than waiting for an indeterminate amount of time for CD&S to tell you. Any information on my little exchange of 500 lines is apparently commercially confidential. Really that's an insult to us to hear them say that. There is no commercial market in exchanges like mine and it's simply an excuse to be able to avoid telling us anything and keep things secret. That could be another 3 years just to find out you aren't getting anything. CD&S have a further target of 100% superfast coverage by 2020. I wish them well but this is far, far too late, action is required now.

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  • Tavistock_SFB  |  September 30 2013, 2:54PM

    Superfast Cornwall really has no problem with millions more spent then the total for the Counties of Devon & Somerset. cooperfarmcom obviously understands like me what is actually going to be delivered. For the UK Government to state 95% of UK will be Superfast by 2017 - that is really untrue unless the network being rolled out is improved to allow this - now. In Devon & Somerset we also suffer from 'where and when' secrecy. The areas that form part of the funding are known but the funding assistance to those in commerical roll-out areas is not. The UK Government is leading a lousy effort on all this. But not to worry we have over 4 years to add billions of words commenting on that lack of effort. I can't wait for the Election promises that will turn into failed targets. I believe that BT, Openreach are doing a great job, where they are actually doing it. But that does not mean the delivery of superfast for all - far from it.

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  • cooperfarncom  |  September 30 2013, 12:13PM

    David Cameron told regional journalists last week: "I think BT are doing a good job." He must have his head in the sand like Vaizey. Here is the "good job" done in Surrey. The report here contains real measurements after deployment of Fibre To The Cabinet that show significant numbers of those on long poor quality lines in rural areas will not benefit. http://tinyurl.com/os4evcn For more on BTs strategy to deploy minimum infrastructure see this: http://tinyurl.com/kxjadhy Expect the same "good job" in all rural areas where Fibre To The Cabinet is used.

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