Lukewarm Reception for Rural Broadband Announcement

Lukewarm Reception for Rural Broadband AnnouncementThe latest Government investment in rural broadband connections has been given a lukewarm reception by small businesses and a leading small-business organisation.

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced a further £362 million investment in the rural broadband network this week, saying it was a vital step towards ensuring 90 per cent of UK homes and businesses have superfast broadband access by 2015.

£294 million will be spent in England by a combination of local authorities and private enterprise. Scotland has £68.8 million to spend as the Scottish Government sees fit. The Welsh Assembly received £56.9 million for upgrades last month and Northern Ireland £4.4 million as part of the £530 million “digital Britain” pledge made by the Chancellor, George Osborne, in 2010.

Announcing the latest funding, Hunt said:

“Fast broadband is absolutely vital to our economic growth, to delivering public services effectively, and to conducting our everyday lives. We are not prepared to let some parts of our country get left behind in the digital age.”

However, while welcoming the investment, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), which has lobbied for better rural broadband access, said it simply wouldn’t be enough to meet the UK’s goal of having the best network in Europe by 2015.

“£530 million is just a drop in the ocean and if we are to truly see the best superfast broadband in Europe, the Government needs to commit more.”

said FSB national chairman John Walker.

“We urge the Government to allow councils and local business communities get on with the task in hand, without any further delay.”

Simon Frith, joint owner of Cyclemart in Lampeter, Wales, expressed frustration about the way broadband had already been implemented locally.

“There was a sizeable grant to install broadband and BT have done a really poor job.”.

“If other people in the village are using their connection before us, ours is very, very slow. Sometimes, if we want to put in a stock order for the next day, we can’t do it. Manufacturers now put their catalogues online, so if you’ve got a customer who wants to view products, you can’t show them. I know for a fact we’ve lost sales.”

Frith also criticised BT for failing to “future-proof” the local broadband by installing an extra duct for fibre-optic cables, adding:

“That means another big bill for the Welsh Assembly.”

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