Superfast web access for rural communities

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Small businesses, people working from home, students and families in Wealden can look forward to a rewarding and successful 2013.

After years of hard lobbying by opinion formers, MPs and councillors, East Sussex has been successful in winning a sizeable chunk of cash which will enable even the most remote parts of the county to access superfast broadband.

The EU has now approved the UK’s £530 million investment in rural broadband. This means East Sussex County Council can now focus on delivering its new broadband infrastructure project with £10,640,000 being made available by the Government.

Wealden MP Charles Hendry said: “The decision is great news for Wealden. Britain is in a global race and we cannot allow rural areas like Isfield or parts of Waldron to get left behind because of bad infrastructure. Wealden will now get the infrastructure to match its aspiration, providing local people and local businesses with the tools they need to get on and prosper.”

At present only three per cent of homes and businesses in East Sussex have access to high-speed broadband compared with 58 per cent nationally, making it one of the poorest served areas in the country.

The County Council launched its ‘Go e-sussex’ campaign last month and urges everyone to register their support for faster and more reliable broadband. It has secured funding to work with a telecoms partner to install the infrastructure needed across the county. But officers point out it will be too costly for firms to invest unless they know there is a strong demand.

A county spokesman said: “There are still blind spots which make it difficult for the technology so provision could be by satellite.”

Former county chairman and current councillor Rupert Simmons, who lives in Waldron, hosted a Heathfield Partnership meeting to explain where the county stands with broadband.

Several small traders told him they cannot function without the service but must compete with others elsewhere in the area who have access to it. He told the Express: “This is one of the most important initiatives undertaken by the council that will ensure not only market towns but isolated rural areas will be served by broadband providers. It’s absolutely vital to the rural economy.

“County have also added £15-million to the sum allocated by the Government to this region. This creates a fund which will entice major providers to take an interest in bidding for broadband in rural communities. All broadband projects are expected to complete procurements by next summer.”