Calls for Council to ‘speed up’ rural broadband

Conservative councillors in Bath and North East Somerset are calling on the council to take more action to improve access to superfast broadband in the authority’s rural areas.

BT is currently rolling out high-speed internet to some of the authority’s more populous areas, including parts of Bath, Radstock and Midsomer Norton. However, Conservative councillors have raised concerns that the area’s villages and rural communities are currently missing out.

The Government has promised to invest in superfast broadband to improve internet access and speeds in more rural areas of the country. So far £363 million has been invested in England and Scotland, but up to now Bath & North East Somerset has missed out on funding. The Government is aiming for Britain to have the best broadband network in Europe by 2015, but Conservative councillors have said they want B&NES to benefit from this sooner.

Conservatives have tabled a question to the council’s Liberal Democrat Cabinet, to be answered at their next public meeting, asking what action the council is taking to access Government funding and deliver improved broadband to the area’s less populous communities.

Conservative Shadow Cabinet Member for Sustainable Development, Cllr Patrick Anketell-Jones, said:

“Accessing funding for high-speed rural broadband is an important opportunity for our area and one which we cannot afford to miss. It will not just benefit local residents, but also help boost our local economy by helping small businesses. The Government has pledged to provide funding to help deliver broadband where commercial operators aren’t installing it themselves. We want B&NES to be among the first to benefit from this, not the last. That’s why we are pressing the council to lobby Government to provide funding for our area and work quickly to draw up a bid to secure this investment.”

Councillor Martin Veale (Cons, Bathavon North), whose ward is one of the largest rural wards in the authority, commented:

“There are many parts of our area which still don’t have good, fast and reliable internet access. It’s sometimes forgotten that technology like broadband internet is just as important to small rural businesses and farmers as it is to companies in city centres. We are urging the council to be proactive in delivering broadband to our rural areas and villages, not simply wait for Government to hand down funding, which could be as long away as 2015.”