Updated 1st May 2014.
Following many years of lobbying, it is incredibly satisfying to see that many parts of the Lydeard Division, which I represent, being amongst the first areas to benefit from the Connecting Devon & Somerset (CDS) superfast internet programme. The goal of CDS is to use the secured £94 million investment to transform internet speeds for businesses and residents ensuring around 90% of premises have access to fibre optic broadband by the end of 2016 with the safety net that a minimum of 2Mbps will be delivered to all premises by the end of 2016.
Bishops Lydeard exchange has been upgraded and most of the village itself is now wired for service through a series of new cabinets that have sprung up. Other villages served by the Bishops Lydeard exchange are also now live, including Cotford St Luke, Combe Florey and West Bagborough. Lydeard St Lawrence is programmed for upgrade by the end of 2014. Some isolated properties remain outside the scope of the current programme but they will at least benefit from the 2mbps safety net. Parts of Norton Fitzwarren also remain unconnected and I am working hard to have these included in the fibre programme.
On the subject of superfast internet, I have been amazed to receive approaches from residents in brand new homes in Norton Fitzwarren telling me that they regularly get speeds of less than 1Mbps on their broadband services. How is it possible for developers to construct new homes without installing up-to-date connectivity? The result is that new residents are inevitably disappointed and that the only way we can get the proper infrastructure installed is to load the obligation on to the taxpayer in the form of adding the requirement to schemes like CDS, described above. This is completely unacceptable. A decent broadband service is as important a requirement these days as constructing the road to the houses in question. To leave it out is incredibly short-sighted from a marketing perspective. Many of the growing number of homeworkers will inevitably be put off buying a home without a good broadband service, especially those engaged in tech or media. And why should the taxpayer pick up the tab for something that the developers should have provided in the first place?
I’ve investigated why there appears to be no planning policy in Taunton Deane requiring house builders to provide superfast broadband as an integral part of their developments. We all know that Taunton Deane Borough Council is having to identify land for 17,000 new homes in the Borough over the next 15 years. Apparently, there is no nationally-accepted way of requiring developers to do this so I’ve started lobbying central government for change. We must make sure that this now-essential service is included at the outset. More soon.