Petition launched to improve broadband speeds for rural communities in Essex
A petition calling upon the Government to increase the benchmark broadband speed to 5Mbps (five megabits per second) as part of its universal service commitment has been launched by the CLA (Country Land and Business Association) for national Get Online Week (30 October 30 – 6 November).
To illustrate the inadequacies of the service in so much of the countryside the rural champion is running its own campaign 'Can't Get Online Week' to highlight the problems. The aim is to achieve a hefty petition to back the cause.
"In many parts of Essex the speed is derisory, less than 2Mbps according to statistics from Ofcom's broadband map published in July," says Nicola Currie, regional director CLA East. "This reflects the fact that up to 20 percent of rural areas are still unable to receive an effective and affordable broadband connection.
"Over 100,000 rural businesses do not have a broadband connection, leading to a clear rural-urban digital divide.
"If you live in the wrong place you will suffer. No-one is exempt, not even prominent people such as Downton Abbey star Hugh Bonneville who plays the Earl of Grantham. He has such difficulties at his home just 40 miles from London* that he is backing our campaign."
As well as running the petition the CLA has teamed up with IT and social media expert John Popham who will be at Little Horkesley Village Hall on Monday (October 31) to talk to people about their difficulties, to give advice and explain how they might get connected using techniques and systems which previously they may not have considered.
He wants to help them to get online and to be able to use social media even though they may have come up against seemingly insurmountable barriers of connectivity, technology or attitude.
Little Horkesley and the surrounding area are notorious for poor connectivity – 0.5 Mbps speeds are common with frequent service drops and outages - which is why the venue has been chosen, but the free event is open to all. Lloyd Felton, whose company County Broadband Ltd is based in the region and was recently appointed official outreach partner to Colchester Borough Council's Digital Strategy has arranged for a high speed broadband demonstration – with speeds of 30Mbps being achieved from connection to a high-speed rural wireless network set-up by his company.
"As the event is free and open to all, we are hoping to see people from many other parts of Essex too," says Lloyd "the service we provide is genuinely high-speed, designed for rural communities and provided in partnership with parish councils. We provide revenue share with the parish as part of our community involvement and use the process recommended by the Rural Broadband Partnership (ruralbroadband.com) which is an organisation endorsement by both the CLA and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport."
The event is at Little Horkesely Village Hall from 9am until 2.45pm; John Popham will be present from 9am until noon.
The broadband petition can be downloaded and submitted by visiting http://www.cla.org.uk/Policy_Work/Petitions/. But aware of the difficulties that many rural people will have in doing so, CLA East is collecting names by telephone at its regional office. Call 01284 789201 and ask to sign up.
For further information:
John Popham 07802 781673
Lloyd Felton, County Broadband 0845 686 5000
Sally Smith, CLA PR 01553 764422 or 07729 448046
* Hugh Bonneville lives 40 miles south of London in a village with a "pretty pathetic" broadband connection. He wants infrastructure companies to give the countryside a chance.
He said: "I yearn for a connection that just stays on, never mind one that goes at the speed of light. I'd love to run aspects of my work from home; I'd love to sign up for services that stream content but the connection's just too unreliable. Some days I can't even send an email and there doesn't seem to be much I can do about it.
"The BT Infinity advertisements drive me nuts. When I applied I was told there aren't enough people in my area to merit the local exchange being upgraded but that if sufficient support was drummed up, it might get the opportunity to go in a ballot and possibly be considered for improvement.
"Ironically, the best broadband connection I've experienced was a lot further than 40 miles from London - it was in Liberia."
A picture of Hugh Bonneville is available from Sally Smith 01553 764422 or 07729 448046.
As a membership organisation, the CLA (Country Land and Business Association) supports landowners and rural businesses and communities, assessing and commenting upon national and regional policy and lobbying government on their behalf. There is a team of experts in London and a regional structure able to give local support. The CLA has been looking after the interests of its members, as well as promoting the positive aspects of land ownership and land management, for over 100 years.
CLA members own approximately half the rural land in England and Wales, and the resulting expertise puts the organisation in a unique position to formulate policies and lobby effectively.
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Nicola has a Post Graduate Diploma in Advanced Farm Management from the Royal Agricultural College (RAC) and seven years experience as a Tenant Farmer, building up a pedigree dairy herd from scratch. She has also spent time in professional practice in Estate and Farm Management. This background has provided Nicola with a useful grounding to work for the interests of the CLA East region’s farming and rural businesses.
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