Slow Broadband in Rural Areas
Superfast broadband is being installed and this is being overseen by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). However, the Government is being accused by rural campaigners and the Country Land Association (CLA) of failing to understand the problems of slow broadband in rural areas and it is also being accused of not taking the problem seriously.
Somerset MP David Heath, and the Department Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) Minister claimed that connections in his constituency are “slower than a man with a stick” and he criticised the fact that the installation of superfast broadband is being overseen by DCMS rather than his own department. This comment was stated to be “far too generous” by Harry Cottrell, President of the CLA and he added “we believe this ‘man with a stick’ must also be confused and lost”. However he is pleased that DEFRA is concerned about the problem but he has said that despite an 11 year campaign there is still “some difficulty” getting DCMS to understand the message that they are trying to get across. Mr Cottrell added “it is vital the industry and Government departments work together if they are to prevent rural-urban digital divide from widening further”.
It has got to the point where some rural communities are/have taken matters into their own hands.
It was recently reported that residents of Elberton in South Gloucestershire would have to pay for the upgrade of their local structure to get the faster speeds. This is due to the distance of the village from the exchange. The main exchange is at Thornbury which is scheduled for an upgrade by BT in 2014. BT will then install a street cabinet in Alveston but the distance to Elberton is too great to transmit superfast broadband to the village.
The villagers are now left with a dilemma as to install a cabinet in Elberton it would cost between £25000 and £75000. South Gloucestershire Council has stated that “because Elberton is severed by a street cabinet that is part of BT’s commercial rollout the village is ineligible for any Government or Council funded investment” and, therefore, it is unable to contribute.
One local resident has said that he will suggest setting up a community fund to cover the cost of this but he is sceptical as to the response as he said “people don’t want to put their hands in their pockets”.
However, there are several communities who have successfully carried out these community projects.
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