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Rural web superhighway stuck in slow lane
SCORES of people from Beaminster and surrounding villages went face to face with Dorset County Council and BT representatives to quiz them about their prospects for faster internet connections.
Some 70 business people and residents took the Dorset Superfast Broadband project team to task over what improvements they could expect.
The breakfast meeting was hosted by the Beaminster business chamber at the Yarn Barton Centre, a hub for people using the internet.
Dorset County Council, on behalf of the partnership of Dorset councils, and BT have agreed a £31.75 million deal to see high speed fibre optic broadband becoming available to 97 per cent of Dorset premises by the end of 2016.
In the remaining areas, largely rural communities are promised just two mbps as a minimum.
Richard Barker, chamber chairman, said that although there was positive news about superfast broadband for the county there was also ‘a healthy degree of cynicism and scepticism’.
“What percentage of people in the Beaminster area will actually benefit?” he asked.
“What is proposed may not benefit someone who lives down a farm track.”
Mr Barker pledged that the chamber would keep the pressure on and keep asking questions of the project team.
Dugald Lockhart, project lead for Dorset Superfast Broadband said it had been useful to be able to give an update of the current position.
He admitted that some rural areas currently had a poor broadband service compared to towns and cities and urged people to be patient.
“The proof of the pudding is in the eating, “ he added.
“In terms of managing expectations, we can’t yet precisely say a particular property will achieve a certain speed at a particular time.
“It was very useful to hear what experiences and difficulties businesses are having and it was useful for senior people from BT to have heard from precisely the rural communities we are trying to target.”
Local county and town councillor Rebecca Knox said: “There were far more people there than I thought, given that it was at 8am.
“The really good thing was that the project team got the chance to hear from people just how important this issue is to local people.
“The frustration was clear that there is very little in terms of hard information on what service people will be getting and when.
“But the aims of the project were very well presented and we got some clear background.”
Sally Samuel of the Yarn Barton centre said that faster broadband speeds would be welcomed by local people.
“People come in from the villages because they have not got enough speed.
“I gather that Mosterton has a particular problem.
“So we certainly do need it.”