Rural communities deserve “tip top broadband” says councillor

Superfast broadband - an essential service for rural communities

By Betsy Everett

A county councillor who says he receives as many emails about broadband as he does about potholes told a meeting this week he was “fully committed” to achieving 100 per cent superfast coverage throughout North Yorkshire.

Don Mackenzie, whose brief includes highways, public transport, broadband, and mobile telephony, said that by 2020 around 95 per cent of premises in the county would have access to download speeds of 25 megabits per second (Mbps). 

“I represent a division in Harrogate where we have a choice of suppliers with commercial companies competing. But this is one of the largest and most rural areas in the whole country. Half the premises who now have access would never have been reached by commercial organisations. The county council has invested EU money, our own money and national money in bringing broadband to this area,” he told members of the the Upper Dales Area Partnership.
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By October this year, the end of phase two, 89 per cent would have access to superfast speeds: good broadband connectivity was a major factor for people considering moving to the area.

“Education, commerce, medical services and personal communication are all enhanced. It’s now considered an essential utility,” he said.

The county had so far spent £36 million and by the end of phase 3, in 2020, another £33 million would have been spent. The contract was still in procurement, so he could not be more precise, but he confirmed that organisations other than BT were involved.

“We don’t know where exactly it will reach, or which technology will be used, but we estimate it will cover around half the remaining 11 per cent. I personally believe that in order to establish a strong economy in the county we have to make sure that it’s not just the centre of Harrogate that gets access to tip top broadband, but every small community, and every premise. I am committed to achieving 100 per cent access. I can assure you I get as many emails about this as I do about potholes, and that’s saying something.”

Askrigg resident Peter Annison, co-owner of Hawes Ropemakers , asked if there were plans to bring the faster, fibre-to-the-premise, as opposed to the cabinet, as for many business nowadays so-called superfast broadband was not not good enough.

“Domestically, people might be happy with 25Mbps but most commercial operations now are being built at a much higher speed. If we are going to attract businesses to the area a lot will be put off by what they perceive as low broadband speeds, and the poor mobile coverage,” he said.

Cllr Ian Purves from Angram, said he believed the distances in remote communities were too great and the number of premises too small, for everyone to have access, and at Angram they would probably have to consider installing their own. 

He believed no proper, full analysis had been conducted, and there had been too much emphasis on cable. Satellite was “a waste of time:” microwave might be the way forward.

Cllr Mackenzie said that Angram might “potentially” be included in phase three.