Broadband - good news for county

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SUPERFAST broadband could soon be made a reality in West Sussex.

A broadband summit was held last Friday (May 20) to look at improving the speed in the county. Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert joined forces with West Sussex County Council to convene ‘West Sussex: Better Connected’, a summit to improve broadband provision in the county was attended by a senior BT executive.

Parts of rural West Sussex have poor broadband coverage and some areas such as Sutton, Plaistow and East Marden have no coverage at all via a landline. Of the four non-broadband enabled exchanges in England, three are in West Sussex.

There was an emphasis put on the future of broadband in the region, looking to provide the best now so as to save money and time later. Jeremy Leggett, Chief Executive of Action in Rural Sussex, warned of the damaging impact of poor broadband on rural communities.

Keynote speeches were given by the Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt MP, and Bill Murphy, Managing Director of BT Next Generation Access. They gave the summit hope not only of tackling the county’s existing ‘not-spots’ but also of achieving superfast broadband coverage in West Sussex within a few years.

In his speech the Culture Secretary, insisted that any solution in West Sussex should not just solve current problems but must exceed them if it was to be sustainable in the long-term. Mr Hunt said that, in spite of the deficit, the Government had provided £530 million to deliver its pledge for the UK to have the best broadband network in Europe by 2015.

West Sussex County Council Leader, Cllr Louise Goldsmith set out the County Council’s plan to deliver broadband, including a bid in the second round of funding from Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK). BDUK, who were represented at the summit, is the body which has been created within the Department of Culture, Media and Sport as the delivery vehicle for the Government’s policies on broadband. The national results for the winners of the second round of funding will be announced on May 27. However if West Sussex is not successful, it will not be the end of the story. Mr Hunt made it clear that, to deliver the Government’s pledge to have superfast broadband across 90 per cent of the country by 2015, BDUK would work with West Sussex County Council to arrive at a workable plan.