What happened to our promised high speed broadband?
A local group has been set up to try and get the promised affordable broadband that has never materialised in coastal and rural areas of the district.
With more and more people working from home, it can put them at a disadvantage with very slow up and download speeds.
Rural families have complained their children are at a disadvantage due to a lack of suitable broadband access which could be damaging their children’s education.
A survey conducted by insurance firm NFU Mutual, suggest one in five rural families have poor broadband links. In turn this is preventing their children accessing online educational resources, the survey of 1,600 parents found.
More than a third of those with internet access said that broadband was too slow for their needs.”As more educational resources become internet-based, country children risk falling behind their urban counterparts,” said Tim Price, rural affairs specialist at NFU Mutual. “Rural communities are already falling way behind and as the digital revolution gathers pace there’s a real risk that the viability of some rural businesses will be threatened and children be put at a disadvantage,” he added.
Despite the promise of affordable high speed broadband for all areas of the Marsh by former Conservative Cabinet Member, Alan Clifton-Holt before the last election, many people who live in rural and coastal areas are not being treated fairly. The government promised by 2017, the government wants to see 95% of the UK on superfast broadband – defined by the EU as speeds of 30Mbps (megabits per second) or higher.
However despite new fibre being put in across the marsh, One of the biggest issues facing rural communities is that even if the telephone cabinet in their area is upgraded to fibre broadband, the speed that they will get depends on the distance they live away from it. “If you live 600 metres or more away from the cabinet you might as well be on dial-up,”
Greatstone resident, John Sheridan, has set up a meeting with British Telecom’s Community Liaison manager, Stacy King, on Wednesday 22nd March at 7pm at St Peter’s Church Hall, Baldwin Road, Greatstone. He told The Looker: “We need a really good turnout to show BT that we are serious and convince them to invest in working up the project detail and castings for the necessary upgrade. Our target is around 400 households to make this viable and affordable.”
In 2014 Shepway District Council issued a statement from former councillor, Clifton-Holt, stating that ‘Coastal communities and rural areas would soon be able to benefit from ‘affordable’ high speed broadband.’
Tens of thousands of pounds was made available for BT, the parent company of Openreach (who carry out all line, exchange work on behalf of BT) to install new optic fibre lines and new distribution boxes across the district.
Mr Sheridan said: “Openreach have confirmed that they are keen to work with us to explore the potential for upgrading our Openreach cabinets to fibre (which would deliver up to 80 Mbps download speeds depending on distance from the cabinet). However, they will not invest in this if we cannot show that there is a real need. However, there is a lot to do to raise as much greater awareness as possible and it will require securing personal commitments to sharing funding (there are various ways of doing this – crowd funding being one) – the more households we can enlist, then the lower the expected cost for each household.”
A Facebook group has been set up called the “Greatstone, Littlestone & Lydd-on-Sea BT Community Fibre Partnership” which already has nearly 200 signed up members.