Faster broadband in rural Kent
PUBLISHED: 14:04 01 June 2014
Why the CLA is campaigning for Kent to be better connected
Without doubt we are fortunate to live in such a beautiful and varied county. The Kent countryside is in places dramatic and in places idyllic, from coast and cliffs to marshland and orchards. It is also exceptionally fruitful and well placed for delivering its produce to market.
In many ways the Garden of England is also a fantastic place to run a rural business. As a result, this sector makes a huge contribution to our county’s economy; according to the initiative Kent Rural Plc the county has 925,000 acres of rural land and its farming sector alone employs 85,000 people.
However, there is a major fly in the ointment for many businesses located in the Kent countryside. Slow and unreliable broadband strangles productivity and without it, firms can struggle to compete on a UK, or an international, stage.
With the world set to become ever more reliant on the internet in the coming years, this is a problem that we need to address urgently. The quality soft fruit and top fruit businesses have to have internet because their customers – including supermarkets, restaurants and even Wimbledon Tennis – order (and change orders at short notice), arrange delivery and pay electronically. No broadband, no business.
Poor broadband connections have been a frustration for residents and businesses in Kent villages for many years.
In 2010, a study showed that Farningham in the north of the county had the worst broadband service in the UK.
With a poor service, essential business activities become an impossible task. Emailing or downloading even a medium-sized file such as a brochure, for example, can take hours.
If a business contact asks you to watch a video online, often the best chance to view it is to drive to an area with better service, which is neither a fast nor an efficient solution.
Thankfully, because of CLA campaigns since 2002, the picture has improved and the future is looking more positive.
Kent County Council has been working hard with BT and 96 per cent of the county will have access to the fibre optic network by December 2015 through its Making Kent Quicker project.
This aims to ensure that more than 90 per cent of households and businesses will be able to access superfast broadband services.
Having got broadband, many businesses do not realise its potential and have no website or e-marketing – yet what better way to sell our excellent produce? This is the important next stage.
The CLA continues campaigning for effective, reliable and affordable rural broadband. Kent has responded but we want Government to speed up roll-out and ensure that the same service is available to all rural communities, in every corner of the UK.
As a county, we are rightly proud of our reputation as the fruitful and prosperous Garden of England. As the world becomes increasingly digital, it is only with fast and reliable broadband that our rural communities will continue to thrive. n