Cumbrians lose broadband after public subsidy cut

Part of Cumbria is to be cut off from broadband next month as public subsidies to operate it have run out, putting the microscope on government policy to help deliver basic broadband to every UK home.

Cable & Wireless Worldwide is cutting "uneconomical" broadband services in the Duddon Valley and Branthwaite in the Lake District because public subsidies have ended, the Guardian said.

Cable & Wireless Worldwide has written to residents warning them of the end of their broadband service, and says they should instead contact a satellite provider for an alternative and potentially more expensive internet service.

Paul Batten, landlord at the Newfield Inn public house, who along with his father, John, helped install and maintain the broadband equipment for the community, told the Guardian: "If we don't have broadband it's going to promptly make some local businesses uneconomical. And who is going to move here with children or to try and run a business from home without broadband?"

Cable & Wireless's broadband service arrived in the area via its Demon internet arm only four years ago at the cost of a £500,000 public subsidy via the now-axed North West Development Agency. The government recently abolished regional development bodies to save public money.

Many of the existing broadband links in the area are based on wireless connections to homes via a large TV mast that is connected to a telephone exchange.

The Guardian reported there are some concerns in the community that schoolchildren will now not be able to complete internet-dependant homework.

Cable & Wireless told the Guardian that maintaining the equipment was costing more than the income from subscribers. There are 42 customers across both areas paying under £20 a month, and the company said it recently spent over £20,000 on a new electricity cable for the Duddon mast.

The telco said it had failed to find more public funds to finance the network and that it has now struck a deal with a satellite broadband provider, with residents being offered free installation.

Satellite broadband provider ToowayDirect said that satellite broadband is not as out-of-reach as it first sounds.

Andrew Walwyn, managing director of ToowayDirect, said: “It is important that [the people of Cumbria] understand that satellite broadband isn’t a second-rate solution. Satellite broadband is widely misunderstood in the UK – some people don’t know it’s available for the mass market and others have a misconception of its reliability.

“In the past, satellite has had a bad reputation for being slow and clunky. But following the introduction of a new satellite in June last year, this has changed. It is now easy to install, reliable and fast and can scale with future needs.”

In other rural broadband access news, Rutland County Council has just selected BT to roll out fast broadband to 90 percent of its residents by the end of 2013, in a project that is set to cost £3 million.

Some 17,000 homes and businesses will benefit from a network that will largely use fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) technology, which can achieve access speeds of up to 80Mbps. Rutland’s average access speed is currently 6Mbps.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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