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Rural broadband? Smoke signals would be quicker, says Hampshire council leader

Tuesday, September 29th 2015 by Ellen Branagh

Rural areas should be a ‘test’ of broadband policy, the leader of Hampshire County Council has said.

In a letter published in the Financial Times, Roy Perry said in some parts of the county “smoke signals” would probably be faster than the broadband connection.

“The government and BT need to recognise the urgency of delivering rural broadband,” he said.

“The current figure of 95% as a target is only an average across England but that number is rarely being achieved for rural residents and businesses.

“Frankly, nowhere in Hampshire can fairly be described as remote or inaccessible but villages even on the edge of Southampton or Portsmouth can still have poor broadband access.

“Once you are half a mile down a lane in the New Forest or in the South Downs you might find smoke signals quicker.”

Hampshire County Council has previously called for local authorities to be given clear legal powers to demand that new developments have access to superfast speeds as part of the planning process.

In his letter, Mr Perry said that rural Hampshire – along with many parts of rural England – contains new businesses that need to be properly connected.

“It’s no good telling a rural start-up business that all might be well in 2020.”

He repeated calls for planning authorities to have “as much power to insist on good broadband connectivity as they have to require water or electricity when granting consents”.

'Sorely disappointed'

Mr Perry also said he wanted solicitors in legal searches for prospective house purchasers to ask what the potential broadband speed was for the property.

“Too many purchasers fondly assume when buying a new house in a modern estate they will get modern levels of connectivity.

“Too often they can be sorely disappointed and learn the hard way.”

He added: “Many millions of people live in rural England and it should be a test of broadband policy that it delivers a successful outcome for rural residents as well as city dwellers.”

Hampshire and other areas have committed millions of pounds to extend broadband coverage via “the only scheme on offer”, Mr Perry said, but said he remained to be convinced that they are getting the maximum outcome and best return on that investment.

In August the government announced that its superfast broadband rollout had reached more than 3m UK homes and businesses.

The rollout, which aims to deliver internet speeds of 24Mbps or faster to those properties not covered by existing commercial networks, is on track to take superfast access to 95% of the UK by 2017, the government said.

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