Broadband fight goes to Westminster

Gazette Series: Elberton resident Andrew Watkins and Steve Webb MP outside the Department for Culture, Media and Sport  (2993380) (2995816) Elberton resident Andrew Watkins and Steve Webb MP outside the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (2993380) (2995816)

A FIGHT to prevent rural areas in South Gloucestershire missing out on faster broadband speeds has been taken to Westminster.

People living in villages near Thornbury and Yate went with their MP Steve Webb to the Houses of Parliament to lobby broadband minister Ed Vaizey over the problem of slow speeds that is affecting households and businesses.

They told Mr Vaizey that while investment in upgrading local telephone exchanges was welcome, many villages, such as Elberton, Tytherington and Acton Turville, could still lose out.

The communities are too far from the nearest exchange or roadside ‘"green cabinet" to benefit from higher speeds because they will still receive their service over extended lengths of copper cable, even after the upgrade has taken place.

The minister told the delegation that he would look at whether the villages could be reclassified as not benefiting from the commercial upgrade process and would therefore potentially be eligible for public funding to improve their position

Elberton resident Andrew Watkins was among the group who made the trip to London.

He said: “I was able to explain to the minister that Elberton residents and others are missing out on the much-trumpeted improvements in broadband.

"I welcome the positive undertaking from him to look at our case and look forward to hearing what he can come up with."

Mr Webb said: “It was good to have the opportunity to speak face-to-face with the minister responsible for broadband.

"Whilst many thousands of my constituents will benefit from improved provision over the next year, I am also very aware of other communities who will continue to miss out. We will keep campaigning until this issue is resolved."

Residents of out-of-the-way villages said failing to get improved broadband services would result in them - and especially those running businesses - falling behind at a time when the economy was still struggling.

Many thousands of people around the country live in so-called internet blackspots and organisations such as the Countryside Alliance are pressing the Government not to forget them.

Places such as Elberton have poor broadband speeds that reach just 1Mbps in most parts of the village, with interrupted connections a common and frustrating problem.

The village was included in BT's commercial broadband rollout but it later emerged that its new fibre optic network would stop in Alveston so the superfast internet signal would not extend as far as their homes and businesses.

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