Sunday, 03 July 2016 18:01

Council leader in broadband warning

Written by  Ruralcity Media
Council leader in broadband warning

Significant challenges must be overcome to bring superfast broadband to rural areas, a council leader has warned.

Roy Perry, leader of Hampshire County Council, said thousands more residents were set to benefit from the rollout of superfast broadband in the county.

But he warned that it remained to be seen how all premises would be connected.

The second phase of the county's Superfast Broadband programme will provide people with access to broadband speeds of 24 megabits per second (Mbps) or faster.

    See also: Network fights for faster broadband

An additional 34,500 premises will be connected by September 2018 following connections already made to 63,000 locations by the programme and its partners, including BT.

Mr Perry said take-up through the programme had exceeded expectations – and brought may benefits to local businesses and communities.

But he warned that significant challenges remained if all premises were to be reached.

"The programme has already increased superfast broadband coverage from 80% to 90% of premises in the county," he said.

The second phase of the programme would further increase coverage to 96% of premises in the county – supporting the local economy and helping to reduce social isolation.

But Mr Perry added: "Significant challenges remain in Hampshire to reach the final 4%.

"It is these harder-to-reach areas where proportionately more expensive infrastructure is needed for a smaller number of properties.

"We are alert to the challenges faced by communities and residents not in the current plans.

"We are working hard to find a solution for these areas, such as facilitating discussions with satellite broadband or self-funding providers."

Many rural businesses have already benefited from the programme – including the Egg Day Nursery in the village of Sutton Scotney, where 20 staff care for 69 children.

Nursery director Briony White administrative tasks and the nursery's online management system were wholly dependent upon the quality of the broadband connection.

"Staff, children and parents have all benefited from the speed increase," she said.

"Management tasks can be completed more quickly and staff are spending less time battling with uploading issues, and more time with the children."

Stacey King, BT's regional partnership director for the south east, said the company was offering community partnerships for areas not due for superfast rollout.

"We're working with developers and planners to ensure fibre broadband is installed into new developments, up-front, rather than having to retro fit it at a later date.

"We also offer community fibre partnerships for communities not currently in any roll-out plans, where BT and the local community share the costs.

"To future-proof the network and further improve speeds, we're also trialling new technology with a view to deploying it, if successful."

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