Tuesday, 28 September 2021

MPs visit rural broadband users

RESIDENTS and businesses in rural South Oxfordshire have told MPs about their experiences of slow broadband speeds

RESIDENTS and businesses in rural South Oxfordshire have told MPs about their experiences of slow broadband speeds.

Four members of the Commons culture, media and sport select committee visited the area on Thursday last week as part of a study into broadband provision.

The visit started with an informal reception hosted by William Perrin at Britwell Hill Farm, near Watlington.

Mr Perrin is a member of campaign group Connect 8, which was formed last year by residents of Howe Hill, Britwell Hill, Cookley Green, Greenfield, Park Corner, Pishill with Stonor, Russell’s Water and Swyncombe.

They are concerned about missing out on the superfast broadband programme being rolled out across Oxfordshire by BT.

The MPs met Connect 8 supporters and heard their personal experiences of broadband. They were also briefed by Village Networks, which is working on an alternative broadband solution for the area.

Speaking at an “oral evidence” session at Russell’s Water village hall later, Mr Perrin said: “One of the things we find here in the Chilterns is that there is a number of people who are running a big business or they’re independently wealthy and they say ‘I want to buy some telecom services from BT’.

“BT can’t do that as the infrastructure is so — to use the technical phrase — completely knackered. It doesn’t work when it rains, you can barely make a phone call there’s so much cross-talk on the line and BT can’t provide modern telecom services in response to commercial need over that service.”

Mr Perrin said he had personally tried to buy commercial broadband from BT and the company quoted him £54,000 for a 10MB per second lease line, which he said was unlikely to work.

The MPs also visited the Tree Barn in Christmas Common, which is owned by Andrew and Jane Ingram, and the Hundred Hill Vineyard at Pishill.

Mr Ingram, who is the Oxfordshire chairman of the Country Land and Business Association, said: “It is shocking that we are 16 years into the 21st century and we don’t have the connections we need to run our business effectively, despite the fact we are less than 15 miles as the crow flies from the M25.

“I hope that the MPs will put pressure on ministers to come up with new solutions.”

Peter Richardson, who is a member of Connect 8, said the solution was for Thames Valley Police to share its masts on Britwell Hill.

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