Rural businesses need to know if and when they will receive superfast broadband so they can plan for the future, says the Countryside Alliance. The Public Accounts Committee’s 50th report into the roll-out of broadband (released today, 1 April) raises concerns about poor information on costs and a lack of detailed roll-out plans for the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) project.
Ten percent of rural addresses will not be covered by the scheme but so far there is scant information about where those addresses lie. The Countryside Alliance believes it is crucial that people living in those areas are told now so other arrangements can be made.
Countryside Alliance head of policy Sarah Lee said: “We fully support the Public Accounts Committee’s recommendation that local authorities should publish detailed mapping down to full (7 digit) postcode including speed of service. We also call for the public to be told the timescale of roll-out.
“Detailed mapping is vital so that those areas which are not covered by the broadband programme can start to investigate other solutions and technologies to access broadband. Access to broadband for households and businesses in a digital age is a basic amenity alongside gas, water, electricity,” she added.
Maria Whitehead, director of Hawkshead Relish in rural Cumbria (015394 36614) is frustrated by the lack of information about when, or even if, her business will get fast broadband. Hawkshead Relish exports to 40 countries and needs to be able to send large documents quickly to its customers. But it is thwarted by slow upload speeds.
“We know that broadband is coming nearby, but we don’t yet know if we will tie into that. They also keep changing the timescale. Three years ago we were told it would be in 2015, then 2016 and I would not be surprised if they tell us soon that it will be 2017,” said Maria. “We have got to have fast broadband to run our business, so we have installed our own satellite system. We were fed up of waiting for the Government to get its act together.”