‘Developing world status’ for North Devon

Region needs super-fast broadband faster or it could miss the economic boat, some claim.

THERE are fears North Devon could be left far behind on the economic ladder following news there were no immediate plans to introduce super-fast broadband to the area.

BT has told the North Devon Gazette that Bridgerule, near Holsworthy, is likely to be the first and only place in the region to benefit from the newest and fastest fibre optic broadband cable, later this year.

Currently in North Devon, only Barnstaple, Bideford, South Molton, Braunton and Holsworthy receive “next generation” or “fast” broadband, speeds of up to 20Mbps, delivered over copper wires.

Fibre optic cable would offer 40Mbps at least, while connection to premises would take that up to 100Mbps.

The apparent slow pace of change has dismayed some business and community leaders, who fear the lack of super-fast connection will hamper efforts to grow.

Ilfracombe Councillor Frank Pearson said it was a vital tool for commerce and modern living but that by 2014 North Devon would be “relegated to developing world status” if BT’s projections were borne out.

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He said the news was disappointing, but not unexpected: “Without super-fast broadband the region will slip backwards to the ‘Sleepy Hollow’ status it had in the 1970s and 80s in the days before the much delayed link road was built,” he said.

“Northern Devon is a favoured place for young people and those with families who aspire to be able to work from home or develop micro-businesses – but they will need to be assured they can connect through super-fast broadband before they’ll relocate.”

BT spokesperson Jason Mann told the Gazette there were no details of any further locations in North Devon as yet but new areas were announced on a regular basis.

“BT has committed to providing super-fast broadband to two-thirds of the UK by the end of 2014 and we do recognise that the final third will be made up of more challenging areas,” he said.

“We welcome the chance to work with the public sector to overcome these challenges.”

Devon and Somerset County Councils have a total of �51 million – including �31 million from the Government - for a project to bring faster broadband to the region.

The initiative is calling on residents and businesses to log on to www.connectingdevonandsomerset.co.uk and register their interest and help build up the case for better broadband.

North Devon MP Nick Harvey urged people to register their views: “If North Devon is going to attract businesses to invest in the area, we need to ensure we have the best services and facilities to offer,” he said.

“There is a real need for superfast speeds in the area, and I would call on BT to match the investment that they are making in Cornwall to ensure we can compete.”

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