Broadband bosses defend roll-out record

PUBLISHED: 19:34 10 December 2015

Switched on: (L to R) BT Programme Manager Laurent Boon; Devon County Councillor Andrew Leadbetter; Mayor of Ottery Councillor Glyn Dobson; East Devon District Councillor Claire Wright.

Switched on: (L to R) BT Programme Manager Laurent Boon; Devon County Councillor Andrew Leadbetter; Mayor of Ottery Councillor Glyn Dobson; East Devon District Councillor Claire Wright.

Archant

The organisation responsible for bringing superfast broadband to rural areas of Devon – including parts of the Sid and Otter valleys – has hit back at claims it has failed in its task.

Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) insists it is making progress with its roll-out of high-speed internet, but admits ‘it will take some time’ before every home is hooked up.

This comes after campaigner Graham Long warned it could be years before some rural properties see their connection speeds improve.

The Herald previously reported how Mr Long had criticised CDS for failing to secure a contract that would deliver the high-tech service to 95 per cent of properties in the region by the end of 2017.

He said the failure had left Devon and Cornwall in the ‘unenviable position’ of being the only two counties in the country that were not on track to hit the target set by Westminster.

Areas affected by the delay include Lancercombe to the north of Tipton St John, Wiggaton and homes around Four Elms Hill.

But Andrew Leadbetter, board member for CDS, has defended the partnership’s record, which has already connected places like Ottery St Mary and Newton Poppleford.

In a radio interview last week, he said: “It is very easy to criticise, especially if you are sitting in the comfort of an armchair.

“People are very quick to come forward and say we’re not doing the job, but actually we are. You have only got to look at our progress.

“I think people have just got to wait and see we what we achieve. Not everyone can be first, and we will get to those hard to reach spots, but it will take some time.”

He said he was ‘reluctant to give definite time-frames’ on exactly when 95 per cent of Devon homes would be able to access superfast broadband, but added it would likely be ‘within the next couple of years’.

In response, Mr Long, who is a councillor in Upottery, said: “We are behind every other single county in England, because every other county now has their phase two programme [to connect 95 per cent of properties] running.

“Andrew said somebody has to be first, but equally, somebody has to be last - and Devon and Somerset are last.

“I believe that the board of CDS… has completely failed and it should be replaced.

“It is in such a mess now, it must be embarrassing.”


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