A CAMPAIGN has been launched to help connect people in South Gloucestershire’s rural villages to superfast broadband – but business owners say they are still fighting an uphill battle.
Thornbury and Yate MP Steve Webb has started his Mind the Gaps appeal to make sure residents and businesses do not miss out on a £35.6million rollout of superfast fibre optic broadband by South Gloucestershire Council and BT.
Some areas including Badminton, Bradley Stoke and Pucklechurch have already been connected but many people in small parishes and hamlets fear they will miss out on the scheme altogether.
“Whilst it is welcome that thousands of extra households have benefited under the council’s Great Western broadband project, I am very aware that many more are still missing out,” said Liberal Democrat Mr Webb.
“We need to make sure that we explore every avenue to get superfast broadband to as many people as possible, including those in more rural locations.”
Mr Webb is working with campaigners, in places such as Horton and Hawkesbury Upton, who cannot be connected because of restrictions on the deal with BT.
They include Richard Williams, who runs Morgan and Lotus car dealership Williams Automobiles from his family farm on Sodbury Common between Chipping Sodbury and Horton.
As reported in the Gazette earlier this summer, Mr Williams and his colleagues rely on internet sales and sell many of their cars to the Chinese market yet they cannot upload high quality pictures.
“It is terrible, we have to go into Bristol to upload pictures but if we couldn’t do that we would be scuppered,” he said.
“We are stuck at the moment and I feel like we are fighting a big blancmange. We know BT has conned the council and that the money being pumped in to this deal is going straight to their shareholders.
“The council has paid BT millions and they have not delivered. If I sold them a car that only went for a few miles I bet they wouldn’t be too happy. It drives me up the wall.”
The deal with BT is subject to European Commission requirements that local authorities can only use public money to invest in areas where there is no current or planned standard or superfast broadband. Mr Williams is connected to a cabinet that has been upgraded to Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) by a commercial provider.
A council spokesman said: "The cabinet is therefore unfortunately not legally able to be included in the council’s current Superfast Broadband Project.”
Mr Webb is now working with provider Cotswold Wireless to explore ways of getting broadband to villages such as Horton and Hawkesbury Upton by using wireless technology rather than traditional telephone lines.
The MP will be attending a meeting, organised by Mr Williams, on Thursday, September 25 (7pm) at Horton Village Hall. Council representatives will also be present and anyone affected is urged to go along.
For more information on the campaign visit http://mindthegaps-ldthornburyandyate.nationbuilder.com