No superfast internet for Elberton unless villagers fork out for better broadband
SLOW Internet speeds are set to stay in Elberton unless residents fork out for superfast broadband themselves.
This year £35.6million in subsidies were poured into upgrading South Gloucestershire’s Internet blackspots not deemed attractive enough to draw investment from commercial providers.
The Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) scheme, a joint venture between the government, South Gloucestershire and Wiltshire Councils, has however left the village of Elberton in the dark.
BT's new fibre optic network due to be installed in the rest of the district will not emit a strong enough signal to reach homes and businesses in the village.
The poor broadband speed reaches just 1 megabit per second (Mbps) in most parts of the village, compared to the significantly higher speeds of more than 24Mbps and up to 80Mbps by 2016 promised in the BDUK upgrade.
Villagers met with two local BT representatives, a BDUK speaker and project manager Jennifer Brake from South Gloucestershire Council on Thursday, September 5 to attempt to improve the situation.
Elberton resident Andrew Watkins told the Gazette that no real progress had been made.
"Because it’s all set in stone, they can’t move the goalposts for us," he said. "The only thing they could suggest was for us to submit a community bid, where they work out a commercial viability and if there is any shortfall, the community fills the gap."
Elberton is served by the Thornbury exchange, which will be upgraded by BT in 2014. But the firm will only install a green cabinet, a box design to transmit broadband signal, in Alveston, which is too far away to reach rural homes in Elberton.
Installing a green cabinet is estimated to cost in the region of £25,000 to £75,000.
A BT spokesman said the cabinet at Alveston was too far from Elberton for residents to get faster speeds without a considerable amount of extra engineering work being undertaken.
The spokesman added: "We met with some residents of Elberton to explain the situation and the options available. We have offered to investigate the costs and work involved if the villagers indicate they want to help fund a community project to bring fibre broadband to Elberton."
Mr Watkins said he was going to try and set up a community fund.
"I’m going to suggest it but I don’t know what the response will be," he said. "I know from my experience trying to drum up support, people don’t want to put their hand in their pockets."
A South Gloucestershire Council spokesperson said: "We sympathise with the situation residents are faced with in Elberton. In order to go ahead with the Great Western Broadband project, we had to apply for State Aid to invest public money into the scheme.
"Because Elberton is served by a street cabinet which is part of BT's commercial roll-out, it is not eligible for any government or council funded investment. This is a large and complex project which is making good progress. We will be making a further announcement about the next communities to benefit later this month."
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