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Jennie Bond: Villages penalised with slow broadband

Wednesday, May 20th 2015 by Ellen Branagh

Small, remote villages should not be “penalised” with slow broadband and poor communications, former BBC royal correspondent Jennie Bond has told Cable.co.uk.

Journalist and TV presenter Ms Bond said slow broadband at her home in the village of East Prawle in South Devon is “very, very frustrating”, especially combined with a lack of mobile phone reception in the area.

“I live in the South Hams, in South Devon, right on the tip by the coast,” she said. “We live in a lovely house overlooking the sea and it’s gorgeous.

“I get no mobile phone reception, so I depend on broadband but the broadband is very slow round here.

“We’ve got two desktop computers, we’ve got three iPads, and some of the TV works that way, Netflix and stuff like that.

“It’s very slow round here. I get thousands of emails and all sorts, it can be very laborious. I just wish it was quicker. It can be very, very frustrating.”

Ms Bond said the issue had been raised in the past but the size of the village meant it was difficult to put enough weight behind a campaign to improve connectivity in the area.

“I think the government should speed things up and I don’t think we should be penalised just because we live in a small village with not many inhabitants.”

She said that although the area has an ageing population, many of whom have retired, communication is just as important for them as younger consumers – arguably more so.

'Small and remote'

She added: “We all have really strong views on this.

“Generally communications are extremely tricky down here. But just because a lot of people are retired around here, it doesn’t mean that they don’t want communication.

“Lots of us run little businesses, I just think we are being penalised because we’re small and remote, and nobody thinks we need very much.”

In January, Connecting Devon and Somerset confirmed extra funding had been raised for its superfast broadband programme, bringing the total to around £45m.

And in February, the project announced that it had reached a major milestone, bringing access to more than 100,000 homes and businesses in the two counties, with 90% able to connect with speeds of 24Mbps or above.

But some residents have hit out at the rollout programme, saying hard-to-reach areas are unlikely to get superfast broadband until 2020.

Graham Long, from Upottery Parish Council in East Devon, told Cable.co.uk that parts of Devon and Somerset were being “stitched up”.

He said up to 90,000 households in the two counties could be left unable to access superfast broadband, despite a nationwide rollout programme.

Mr Long said a high proportion of properties left out in rural areas compared to urban areas means as few as 10% of properties in his parish will be able to access superfast speeds by the end of 2016.

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