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Living in a 'not-spot'...

Living in a 'not-spot'...

Recent weeks have seen MPs on the parliamentary affairs committee slate the government's project to bring superfast broadband to rural areas. The project has been criticised as being ineffective, ponderous and a waste of tax payers' money, as all of the contracts have been awarded to BT, effectively reinforcing their monopoly position on fixed line fibre broadband.

Of course, there is a fair bit of cross party postulating and politics going on but the reality on the ground is that the government's investment doesn't seem to be making much of an impact - at least not in this part of rural Devon.

Long ago we registered our interest in faster broadband on the respective BT and government websites. After all, it is getting increasingly difficult to operate a modern business with only 0.5mb broadband connection, which is what this part of the Blackdown Hills gets.

A few months ago we looked on the Connecting Devon and Somerset website and we were pleased to see that a £96m contract to roll out superfast fibre broadband had been awarded, albeit to BT. "Hurrah - it is on its way," we thought.

But alas it seems that this is not the case. Recent news on our local village website shows that our area will still not have fibre in 2017, despite other areas nearby getting it much sooner.

It is easy to get cross about this but the reality is that we choose to live in a fairly remote and unpopulated part of the country. We actively chose to live somewhere quiet and far from the maddening crowd. Quite a few houses in the local area do not have mains water and none of us have mains drainage or mains gas. Why, therefore, should we be surprised and angry that we are not a high priority for faster broadband? After all, there are only about 250 properties on our entire telephone exchange and it is probably fair to assume that not all of them are even using the internet. So the cost of installing fibre for the few of us that would benefit from it is probably disproportionately high.

Don't get me wrong - I'd love to have faster broadband as it would save me a huge amount of time at work. But it isn't a basic human right like some people seem to think it is. We can, after all, get access to the internet.

As we are officially in a 'not spot' the government is also supporting us in different ways, and I think too many people are overlooking the alternatives. Fed up with our slow speeds, we have recently taken the plunge and installed satellite broadband. It offers a 20mb connection and has transformed tasks like uploading files and sending big attachments on email.

For sure, it is a little more expensive than our standard broadband but fibre would also be more expensive. And, thanks to the government, we were able to get free hardware, free installation and a subsidised monthly rental.

It is fair to say, therefore, that whilst the roll out of superfast broadband by fibre might be frustrating some of my fellow country-dwellers, there are alternatives and they are available today. And, in the same way that we all have oil tanks to run our heating in these parts rather than the convenience of mains gas, perhaps we must also accept that alternative ways of getting speedy internet access are simply the reality of living somewhere so lovely.

Those who like to whinge will point out that technology is moving on at pace and, even with satellite connection, us poor country bumpkins will be left behind as the rest of the world gets ever-faster connections. But I am equally sure that satellite, and indeed mobile technology will also move on at pace. I was staying in Edinburgh recently and managed to get a 35mb connection via 4G. OK, it isn't available in rural areas yet, but 3G is fairly ubiquitous, so it is probably only a matter of time.

In the meantime, I'll make the best of what we've got - working from home in such a lovely area rather than having to commute into town to get a faster connection will remain my preference! 

Philip 17:13

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