Thursday, 17 August 2017

Connect8 broadband campaign launched

A CAMPAIGN has been launched to secure a superfast broadband service for a number of rural villages

A CAMPAIGN has been launched to secure a superfast broadband service for a number of rural villages.

Connect 8 is concerned that people in Howe Hill, Britwell Hill, Cookley Green, Greenfield, Park Corner, Pishill with Stonor, Russells Water and Swyncombe will miss out.

The Better Broadband for Oxfordshire project, a partnership between Oxfordshire County Council, BT and the Government?s Broadband Delivery UK, has pledged to make the service available to 95 per cent of homes and businesses in South Oxfordshire.

Launched in August 2013, the £25 million programme will give them access to speeds of at least 24 megabits per second by the end of this year. Connect 8 represents eight areas that are in the five per cent of homes and businesses that won?t be covered.

Peter Richardson, a member of the campaign group, who lives in Howe Hill, said: ?The problem is the cost of infrastructure compared with the return. What we?re trying to do is persuade BT that it would be worthwhile spending money in this area. About 50 per cent of people in the area work from home ? virtually everybody would sign up.?

Currently, residents had to put up with an ?inconsistent signal? and some received speeds of only one MB per second.

Mr Richardson said: ?You have also got elderly people who can?t do online shopping or access NHS services, people in businesses who can?t communicate. Virtually nobody can run BBC iPlayer or catch-up TV.

?We have got young people moving away from the area because they feel it hasn?t got everything they need in today?s world and property values are affected by whether you have got broadband or not.? Connect 8 says that BT and other broadband providers would attract plenty of subscribers if they provided the necessary infrastructure and modernised exchange and telephone line equipment.

It has already received more than 50 responses from across the parishes.

Liz Longley, chairwoman of Swyncombe Parish Council, said: ?We are deeply concerned at the level of our current broadband speeds, which are at the levels of anything from zero to 2MB per second.

?This is useless for all residents, whether they are working from home, wanting to download films or data, research for home study for students of all ages as well as recreational use.

?One parishioner recently lost an important business deal because the speeds were so slow. Fast broadband will just touch the outskirts of our collective parishes, i.e. Christmas Common, Britwell Salome, Bix and Watlington, so our question is: when are we going to get fast broadband??

A spokesman for Oxfordshire County Council said it was hoped the 95 per cent coverage would be widened. He said: ?In the spring, results are expected from another potential investment, identifying additional postcodes not in the programme and further optimising superfast broadband coverage.?

Steve Henderson, BT?s regional broadband partnership director, said: ?The rollout of fibre broadband across Oxfordshire is gathering pace as we reach more communities, bringing the benefits of high speed broadband to more and more families and businesses.?

The Connect 8 team will meet on February 4 to review its progress and is appealing for more people to make contact. For more information, visit www.connect8.org

• Last week it was announced that fibre broadband cabinets in Henley are now ?live?, meaning residents and businesses can request an upgraded service from their internet service provider. See Broadband cabinets go ‘live’

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