Wednesday, 16 June 2021

Minister tells BT to provide superfast broadband

HOME Secretary Theresa May has intervened after Crazies Hill missed out on superfast broadband.

HOME Secretary Theresa May has intervened after Crazies Hill missed out on superfast broadband.

Residents appealed for help from the Maidenhead MP after a multi-million pound scheme by the Government and BT elected not to install fibre-optic cabinets in the village.

They are unhappy that the Superfast Berkshire programme included nearby Wargrave but failed to continue on to Crazies Hill, despite the poor broadband speeds residents currently experience.

In April, the Henley Standard reported that the cabinet that serves Crazies Hill will not be updated as part of the programme, meaning residents will be left with broadband speeds of as little as two megabits per second.

Mrs May arranged a meeting between BT executives and local councils this week where the residents’ concerns were discussed.

She said it was important that remote areas of the county were not left out and demanded that coverage was rolled out “without delay”.

Mrs May said: “I am delighted that BT has agreed to meet with local parish councils to discuss the rollout of Superfast Berkshire.

“Over the last five years, I have pressed local decision makers on the rollout of superfast broadband in the area. While I am pleased with the progress of the project, I believe more needs to be done for the hardest-to-reach areas across the constituency which may not have been eligible for intervention.

“I will continue to closely monitor developments to ensure superfast broadband is rolled out without delay.”

Philip Davies, who is a member of the Crazies Hill and Cockpole Green Residents’ Association, attended the meeting in Maidenhead on Tuesday.

He said: “It was informative and interesting. The BT regional directors were extremely helpful and sympathetic to our plight and have helped us focus on what next steps we need to concentrate on.

“Superfast Berkshire is clearly in the driving seat with regards to who gets an upgrade to superfast broadband. We are not sure how they decide who does and does not get an upgrade and that’s our next port of call.

“My concern is that places like Checkendon, which is in the middle of nowhere, enjoys speeds of 40Mbps, while we are close to Henley, Maidenhead and Reading and struggle to get 1.8Mbps.

“We sent out a survey which something like 95 per cent of residents and businesses responded to and rated broadband concerns as urgent.”

In a statement, the association said: “We are the last community on the normal copper wire from the Wargrave exchange and therefore our broadband speeds are generally extremely poor and are not likely to improve with current technology.

“We would like to take this unique opportunity to present our views directly to BT, showing why there is a compelling case to install fibre connectivity to a box much closer to the village.”

Ninety per cent of homes in Berkshire are due to have access to fibre-optic broadband by the end of the year under the Superfast Berkshire initiative. Broadband cabinets for several streets in Wargrave have already been connected, providing speeds of up to 24 Mbps.

Superfast Berkshire, which was launched in 2011, has previously said it is considering installing broadband in the Crazies Hill area by 2017.

In July it signed a contract with a second broadband provider, Gigaclear, with the aim of expanding coverage to 95 per cent of the county. Gigaclear claims it can provide “ultrafast” broadband with speeds of up to 1,000Mbps.

A BT spokesman said: “More than 310,000 premises in Berkshire can already access fibre broadband as a result of the Superfast Berkshire partnership and BT’s own commercial fibre broadband rollout.

“We understand the frustration of people who don’t yet have access to superfast speeds but the vast majority of people throughout the UK will be served in the next couple of years.

“It is also the case that most people who haven’t already got access can get very decent speeds via the existing copper network, so they are able to make full use of the internet.”

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