RURAL businesses in Stafford say superfast broadband is just as important to them as it is to city firms.
They have spoken out after the Rural Shops Alliance (RSA), which represents rural businesses, criticised the Government’s new grant scheme which will enable businesses in 22 cities to upgrade their internet connections.
Kenneth Parsons, for the RSA, said: “Upload speeds of a third of a megabyte or less are not uncommon in rural areas.
“It seems bizarre for the government to be subsidising businesses which already have the potential to access superfast broadband, whereas swathes of the country still have no idea if and when they are going to be upgraded to a decent speed.”
Mike Allen, chairman of Haughton Parish Council, says the topic has become a regular item on the council agenda.
He told the Newsletter: “We’re supposed to get fibre optic in the village by the end of this year. Open Reach have been working at the east end of the village recently, so we’re hopeful.
“There’s been a lot of demand for it here and all 14 businesses are keen to get it. Speeds vary in the village, with the lowest being half a meg.
“People living in the country have come to accept they will have slow internet. But times have changed and it has become a necessity more than a luxury.
“I appreciate the majority of people live in the town and they want to offer the service where it will be used the most. But it is just as important that we have this in rural communities.”
Grazyna Martin, secretary at Haughton Garage, said: “We are interested in getting superfast broadband. We use it for our website and searching for parts. It would be great to have it at work and I would love to have it at home.”
Matt Johnson, bar manager at The Bell Inn in Haughton, said: “We use broadband for the card machine and we offer Wi-Fi to our customers. Having fibre optic would make everything faster.
“Villagers have been talking about getting fibre optic. It took a lot of campaigning just to get broadband.”
Staffordshire County Council is bringing fibre based broadband to 97% of Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent by spring 2016 (roughly 472,000 premises), with 95% of homes and businesses being able to access speeds of 24Mbps or more.
The County Council will be investing nearly £8million, which is being match-funded with £7.44million from BDUK and £12.47million from BT.