The very welcome, country wide roll out of superfast broadband has benefitted many individuals and businesses, including those who previously had a reasonable connection. Unfortunately, the roll out has not significantly benefitted rural communities and these are the areas where broadband is often unavailable or so slow as to be virtually useless. There remains a significant digital inequality and this is having an adverse impact on the local rural economy.
Last year Fibre Valley members were pleased to secure some improvement in the upper Worth Valley, in particular with the construction of a new cabinet at the top of Haworth. However many local communities continue to have broadband issues.
At Stanbury, for example, where a high ratio of individuals work from home, Fibre Valley have been told the community will have to wait at least two years for a solution or find a minimum of £30,000 to pay BT Openreach to provide new cable. It’s not fair that some areas with previously adequate services are receiving superfast broadband whilst others, with clearly sub-standard services are being asked to dig into their own pockets. It’s difficult to explain this two tier approach.
Fibre Valley’s experience also illustrates how BT Openreach, the single provider of broadband infrastructure, call all the shots. Despite the involvement of the MP, Kris Hopkins, and meetings with representatives from the Government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), we have failed to have any significant influence over BT Openreach.
In one example, at Oxenhope, there is a situation where lines are directed underground to a distant cabinet, rather than the one at the end of the street and this is badly affecting broadband speed. Residents and businesses keen to see this addressed were flabbergasted when BT Openreach refused to deal with this matter, despite funds being available to pay for the work via the broadband business voucher scheme and despite there being a relatively simple and obvious technical solution. BT Openreach stopped the scheme dead in its tracks, stating it was not their policy to undertake the re-parenting works required.
Fibre Valley continue to challenge BT Openreach on such matters in the hope of sensible solutions being found to these problems. Given the significant investment of public funds with a single provider, we are calling for greater transparency and a much clearer commitment to tackling the areas of greatest need.