ACRE welcomes rural boost for superfast broadband
by Claire McGine, Head of Communications

ACRE has welcomed the Government’s bumper switch-on day for superfast broadband – and is urging rural customers to sign up so that they can reap the benefits.

The Department for Media, Culture & Sport today (December 18) announced the “switching on” of broadband cabinets in areas across England, giving 5,000 homes and businesses access to superfast broadband speeds for the first time.

As a result, the total number of premises included in the rollout of the Government programme is expected to exceed 200,000 by Christmas.

“The benefits of getting on line are huge for rural businesses, the farming and tourism sectors and for individuals too."

Leading rural network ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England) says the news is a huge boost for the latest towns and villages to be “switched on” in Wiltshire & South Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Kent & Medway, Cheshire, the Cotswolds and Shropshire.

ACRE chief executive Janice Banks said: “It’s great news that Government is on course to deliver superfast broadband to 95 per cent of the UK by 2017

“The benefits of getting on line are huge for rural businesses, the farming and tourism sectors and for individuals too.

“Businesses can communicate much more easily with suppliers, win new customers and access new markets. Employees can work remotely, cutting down on the need for office space and travel.

“Farmers will have the ability to use new digital services, such as gaining access to a vet online, using video footage of animals – and receiving Common Agricultural Policy payments online from 2015.

“Tourism businesses need superfast broadband to be able to host conferences effectively and allow their business customers to work.

“For families in rural communities, who often have to travel miles to access services, being able to shop and bank online will make a real difference to everyday lives.

“Children will be able to access the internet to help them with their homework, and being able to join virtual communities through social media will benefit people of any age who feel lonely or isolated. People will have greater access to information about health, benefits and advice services.

“The emphasis now must be on encouraging people in rural areas to take advantage of the superfast speeds and get on line. The trusted voices of the ACRE Network of rural community councils are ideally placed to help county-based projects to roll out their broadband programmes.”

Ms Banks said ACRE remained concerned about the 5% of the UK that would not be covered by 2017, which are among the most isolated rural areas of the country.

She added: “Many people in rural communities ask us when they are going to get superfast broadband and it can be a difficult question to answer. Coverage and information on who gets what, where and when is evolving all the time.

“Even if communities and businesses don’t get superfast broadband through the main rollout, there will be other solutions available to them. We hope funding will be made available so that these isolated areas do not miss out.”