High-speed broadband pledge for rural homes - but critics question move

PUBLISHED: 12:03 05 January 2016 | UPDATED: 12:03 05 January 2016

Archant

District bosses say they are committed to connecting rural properties with superfast internet to ensure 'East Devon's modern economy is not stifled by a lack of modern technology'.

East Devon District Council (EDDC) is preparing to bid for a share of £10million in government cash after holding ‘positive discussions’ with potential suppliers of high-tech broadband - but critics have questioned the move.

EDDC says it believes it can meet the criteria set by the fund and final details for its bid are currently being worked on.

But campaigners have accused the council of trying to ‘create a good news story’ and ‘muddying the waters’ by considering its own broadband project, separate from the rest of Devon.

An EDDC spokeswoman said: “EDDC is committed to ensuring that superfast broadband is delivered to the remaining 10 per cent of those East Devon rural homes and business premises not included in phase one of the Connecting Devon and Somerset broadband infrastructure programme.

“The council has already had positive discussions with potential suppliers regarding the possible construction of a predominantly fibre to the premises (FTTP) network or alternative technology solutions, where appropriate, which would be financed by both public and private funds.

“The council is resolute that it moves forward with this scheme so that East Devon’s outstanding modern economy is not stifled by a lack of modern technology.”

But Graham Long, from campaign group Faster Broadband for Rural Devon and Somerset, said that the fund EDDC is planning on applying for is for ‘ultrafast’ projects – which can deliver speeds of 100 megabytes per second – and not ‘superfast’ schemes, which are slower at 24 megabytes per second.

He told the Herald: “This has been done in order to create a good news story, but there is no good news.

“EDDC could not use [the government money] to provide superfast broadband to East Devon – it would be for ultrafast projects.

“You are only going to be able to do that in towns, larger business parks and big new developments.

“Perhaps Cranbrook could be a target for that. But [the money] will not get very far if you try to connect FTTP to 10 per cent of East Devon.”

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