West Sussex village named as “broadband blackspot”

PULBOROUGH has been named a ‘broadband blackspot’ after its service was found to be one of the 20 slowest in the UK.

Tests carried out by price comparison website uswitch found that the town has just 1.9Mbps of broadband speed, almost four times slower than the national average of 7.5Mbps.

Ernest Doku, uSwitch’s Technology Expert, said: “Fast broadband speeds should be available to everyone, not just for those people living in heavily urbanised areas.

“These latest figures highlight that, despite considerable investment, many areas of the UK are still living in the broadband dark ages.”

The findings come a week after the UK government announced its plans to roll out improved broadband to rural areas in the coming months, as reported in the County Times.

Very few areas in West Sussex have access to superfast broadband, with the non-broadband telephone exchanges at Plaistow and Sutton providing no service at all.

West Sussex has been allocated £6.26m to upgrade internet access.

But Horsham district councillor Roger Paterson (Con, Pulborough), cabinet member for the local economy, has complained that the funding amounts to ‘less than half’ of the amount expected.

Mr Paterson said: “It’s very disappointing that in the recent round of government broadband grants, rural Sussex missed out.

“We’ve got funding which amounts to an average of £30 per household. We were expecting around £70.

“The problem is that rural West Sussex is not seen as being deprived.

“But it’s a powerhouse of job creation - more jobs were created in rural Sussex than urban Sussex this year.

“And we all know how crucial broadband is to fostering economic development.”

Superfast broadband will be taken to around two thirds of UK households and businesses by the private sector. The Government funding is aimed at making it viable for businesses to invest in the final one third.

But Mr Paterson suggested that it is unlikely that £6.26m will convince the big telecoms companies to improve services.

“It’s a marked failure on the part of BT who have shown no interest in bringing broadband speeds in rural areas up to reasonable speeds.

“It’s simply because it is not profitable for them.

“Imagine if the water companies behaved in this way.”

A BT spokesperson said the company was committed to playing its part in delivering broadband to rural areas.

“BT is investing more than any other company to roll out super-fast broadband and we are keen to reach even more areas by working with the public sector.

“We are willing and able to play our part but local government and community groups will also need to get involved if rural areas are to benefit.”

West Sussex County Council will only be able to access the £6.26m grant if they are able to match the figure with their own funds, generated through private partnerships.

Council Leader Louise Goldsmith said: “Work is now underway with our partners to find match funding for the Government grant.

“We recognise this will be challenging in the current economic climate, but this is very much about investing for the economic future of West Sussex, so it is vital we get this secured so work can start as soon as possible to improve broadband connections in our county.”