Broadband company criticises council

The West Sussex County Council map, removed from their website after complaints, also shows the areas Kojima covers (green) and is looking to cover (yellow).
The West Sussex County Council map, removed from their website after complaints, also shows the areas Kojima covers (green) and is looking to cover (yellow).

A FURIOUS broadband business owner has crticised West Sussex County Council for steamrolling ahead with funding improvements to provide a service he already offers.

Bill Lewis, whose firm is based in Petworth, has become increasingly frustrated as the Government awarded West Sussex County Council £6.26m to provide fixed-line high-speed broadband.

Kijoma Broadband claims it could offer much of Horsham district super-fast wireless broadband on a non-fixed line, yet he says the West Sussex County Council has failed to properly engage with him.

Mr Lewis said: “The ‘unfairly’ issue primarily hinges on excluding Kijoma by name and action from any of their output. They never mention our existence or the existence of our service via the media and continually give a token line about ‘wireless’ on their website which has always been accompanied with a ‘but’ doubt inducing comment to qualify it.”

He added that Kijoma current provides speeds over 24 mbps, but because of commercial uncertainty is reluctant to roll out speeds of over 30 mbps with the threat of being streamrolled by publicly funded alternative technology looming.

“Kijoma and many other independents agree that this funding methodology is flawed and is stifling the market. Many companies who would commercially fill the gaps and raise private investment are unable to do so with the spectre of a “one horse race” fed from public funds,” he said.

A spokesperson for WSCC said: “WSBC [West Sussex Better Connected] and the County Council acts impartially and fairly in its dialogue with broadband providers. Neither organisation has acted unfairly towards any particular provider. Both have acted fairly towards Mr Lewis.

“As part of the procurement process, further consultation will be held in which all broadband providers will have an equal opportunity to submit the latest information about their service coverage and any plans to expand.”

Last week the WSCC website compared the price of the highest wireless speeds to ethernet prices, a line it has subsequently removed.

According to Mr Lewis, WSCC also phoned up one of his business clients in February this year asking them to appear on radio in order to highlight the need for fixed-line high-speed broadband. WSCC denied his claim that it was running down business in the area by underrating current broadband provision in West Sussex.

It is currently committed to delivering 100 per cent broadband access to the county and next generation access speed to 90 per cent.

Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) said that state aid rules do apply to any broadband projects and the local body responsible should provide mapping and data to support their submission and relevant evidence from existing suppliers.

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