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Rural residents promised fast broadband - again

The Queen's Speech contained a pledge on broadband for rural areas Photo: PA

It's been a longstanding complaint in homes and businesses across the West Country - the lack of a decent internet connection. Today in the Queen's speech the Government promised to give every household the right to fast broadband. While it's welcome news for rural residents, many have heard it all before - but nothing has been done.

Johnny Torrens-Spence is angry that it's taking so long to get decent broadband. So is Cherry Mulliss, a programmer who designs websites. She has a big image library. Uploading it takes...not seconds, not minutes, not even days - but weeks. It's much easier to get in her car and make a 20 mile round trip to a pub in Burnham on Sea.

Last year the Government said a minimum download speed of 10mb was a necessity. David Cameron told the House of Commons: "The aim for Taunton and the whole of the South West is to make sure we deliver on our promises for high speed broadband."

But earlier this month the Culture Minister suggested not everyone would get it. Not surprisingly not everyone is happy. Bridgwater Conservative MP Ian Liddell-Grainger described it as a betrayal.

The organisation appointed by the Government to oversee the introduction of fast broadband in parts of the region has issued a lengthy statement.

“By December 2016, Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS), the largest publically subsidised fibre broadband roll-out in England, will have achieved its phase 1 target; CDS will have connected 320,000 premises to fibre broadband, of which 275,000 will be able to connect to superfast broadband speeds in excess of 24mbps. To date CDS has connected 298,000 premises to fibre broadband, with 8 out of 10 of these premises able to receive superfast broadband speeds in excess of 24mbps - a tremendous achievement.

“We remain committed to ensuring everyone can play their part in the digital economy. The phase 1 programme is expected to connect 90% of homes and businesses alongside the commercial rollout by BT and Virgin and phase 2 will get us to 95%. We are concerned by the inference that not all rural homes in the final 5% may receive the 10mbps broadband speed promised to all by the Government in November. However, this is still the subject of an on-going consultation to which we are proposing to contribute.

“A rise to 10 Mbps is a good outcome, where it is truly universal, but there remains a strong concern that this will still create an unfair level of speed and coverage for rural economies when compared to more urban locations. We are confident that there will be significant demand from rural communities for improved speed, in excess of 10 Mbps. Levels of take up in rural locations far out strip take up in urban and semi urban locations.

“CDS will continue to lobby Government to support us in our ambition to deliver world class connectivity throughout Devon and Somerset.”

– Cllr David Hall, Somerset County Council