As green “superfast broadband” BT cabinets multiply around Wellington’s streets, some residents in nearby villages feel penalised for choosing to live just a few miles out of town. Poor internet access can drastically affect businesses and property values – as well as stopping people watching catch-up TV on BBC iPlayer.
“It’s just so unreliable as well as slow,” commented Suzanne Larsen, who lives in Greenham – just five miles from Wellington’s centre. “I also have to pay extra to pay an ISP provider who can get a bit more out of the BT lines.”
In Ford Street , just two miles from the town hall, householders such as Steve Lodge think themselves lucky to get a bare 3MB per second, barely enough to use You Tube. On the Blackdowns local groups are holding protest meetings about the 10% of the population who seem to be outside the ambitions of Connecting Devon & Somerset to give everyone in the two counties hi-speed broadband by 2016.
“Clayhidon has dreadful broadband speeds,” commented Gareth Weekes who runs a Bournemouth-based media consultancy as well as the village website. “If we didn’t have satellite access to the internet, we simply couldn’t live here.”
Estate agents are finding that internet access is a big issue for potential buyers of rural properties. “Broadband speed is one of our most frequently asked questions,” commented Ashton Greed, Wellington manager for Stags. “People, for instance, who want to work part of the week from home for a large organisation simply can’t do it with slow internet access. In this area it needs to improve a lot.”
Even local IT businesses are not immune from the problems. “We’re moving half a mile or so to bigger offices on Westpark26 but we’re having to change from fibre to copper wire, with a large access speed reduction,” said SIPtech’s MD Mark Sealey “It’s crazy but true.”
Luckily for the company, a proportion of their business comes from helping clients use hi-tech options to overcome slow broadband speeds, ranging from satellite connectivity (which Mark uses at home hear Wiveliscombe) to bonded multiple phone lines.
“I’m not going to speak ill of BT,” joked Mark. “People don’t expect them to be proactive or give advice, so really they’re providing our clients for us.” He’s running an expanding business helping people overcome technical difficult is that many tax-payers feel should be there. After all, we all get 240v from our electric sockets, not a highly varied product according to our postcode.
Last year a report from the highly-respected Plunkett Foundation warned that 23 per cent of rural households in England have no or limited broadband. Plunkett spokesman Mike Kelly said: “It’s a critical issue for the countryside. Having a fast broadband connection is as much of a building block in today’s economy as the Post Office or trains used to be.”