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Extra cash for broadband, but who will benefit?

The superfast fibre-optic broadband rollout is being extended in Leicestershire but County Hall  has not yet revealed which areas will be covered under the new �9.2m deal with BT

The superfast fibre-optic broadband rollout is being extended in Leicestershire but County Hall has not yet revealed which areas will be covered under the new �9.2m deal with BT

 

An investment of £9.2m will be made to improve broadband speeds for rural areas but some pockets in Harborough district are still likely to miss out, a County Hall manager admitted this week.

Leicestershire County Council’s cabinet has voted to commit £1.7m towards a new superfast broadband scheme intended to reach rural areas of the county.

The cash will be combined with £3.7m from the Government, £2m from the county’s enterprise partnership and £1.8m from BT.

The council has already committed £18.6m to cover about 96 per cent of county premises via its Superfast Leicestershire scheme.

But some blackspots are likely to remain even under this latest scheme, which could be completed by March, 2016.

Matthew Kempson, the broadband project manager for the county council, said some money would be set aside from the new £9.2m funding package to investigate these hardest to reach communities.

He admitted that some hinterlands will not be covered due to the prohibitive costs involved of hooking them up.

The money set aside will look at ways to cover these areas. He was unable to say which villages will or will not be included in the next roll-out, saying it would depend on negotiations with BT.

“We will try to get the most out of the new contract, to cover the widest area possible,” Mr Kempson told the Mail.

Some people have called on the council to use a different contractor which has expertise in fibre-to-home internet services.

Several Harborough district villages have been left angered for being missed off the list for improved internet speeds in the initial rollout.

Residents contacted the Mail to outline their painfully slow speeds, which they say are affecting small businesses, students’ homework and the ability to contact family members overseas.

A pressure group has been formed to champion their rights as council tax payers and BT consumers.

The Welland Valley Broadband Group covers parishes such as Drayton, Blaston, Slawston, Glooston, East Norton, the Langtons and Shangton in Leicestershire and Stoke Albany, Dingley, Sutton Bassett, Weston by Welland and Ashley in Northants.

A spokesman for the group said: “The additional funds are a positive step towards achieving the 100 per cent strategy.

“We recognise, though, that either additional funds will be required or commercial companies will need to be introduced to reach all the residents in the next few years.”

District councillor Barbara Johnson said: “While I very much hope new solutions can be found, what really concerns me is the way this scheme has been presented.

“The county council’s communication resources should have been used to comprehensively inform and consult with those waiting longest.”

Pam Posnett, the county council’s rural broadband spokesman, said: “Broadband is essential for business and families and it is important that those in rural areas share in the benefits these technologies can bring.”

 

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