Leader of Hampshire County Council, Councillor Roy Perry, is taking steps to intervene further in the broadband market in Hampshire to get more homes and businesses better connected.
An ambitious programme called ‘Getting Connected’ would see improved connections to superfast broadband for residents on new estates that have not had broadband installed as part of BT’s commercial roll out – and are not covered by the County Council’s multi-million rural programme in Hampshire.
It is estimated there could be as many as 5,000 premises already built on new developments in Hampshire where no planned commercial investment has been made, and now the Council is planning talks with developers and broadband providers to find a solution to ‘retro-fitting’ them.
This latest action comes on top of the pledge the County Council made last November to work with district and borough councils, developers and broadband suppliers to make access to superfast speeds a requirement from the day the property is occupied on new developments. It said it would be calling on Government to give councils legal powers to insist on it through their planning processes, especially on large-scale developments.
Cllr Perry said: “I’ve been very sympathetic to residents who have been disappointed to discover that this matter was not automatically dealt with by either the developers, or the broadband providers. Some people who have moved into brand new homes are lucky if they are getting a speed of 0.5 Mbps – which is simply not good enough.
“We always accepted that help was needed to ‘retrofit’ existing houses in rural areas and we are aiming for 96% coverage – but it was very disappointing to discover that these new developments often do not have good broadband from day one.”
Hampshire County Council has invested extensively in providing Superfast Broadband to premises in Hampshire where commercial investment has not, and is unlikely to be made. By 2018, the Council is expecting to have 96% of premises in the county enabled for Superfast Broadband, from a starting point of 80%. This represents both a significant achievement and ambition and is backed by around £30 million of public funds.
Cllr Perry said: “I hope we can reassure these communities that we will have capacity to help and enable connectivity to Superfast Broadband services. I know this is also an issue of interest to Hampshire’s MPs and I will be writing to them accordingly.
“We also have more work to do around another category of provision which relates to future housing developments and planning permissions which may be given in the coming months and years, and ensuring that the development industry cooperates with BT to ensure the necessary connectivity. While the County Council will not need to finance such a programme, we will be putting staff resources to help its coordination and continue the dialogue with the developers for the County as a whole.”