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Saturday, 02 August 2014

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‘Unreliable internet connection is hampering town businesses’

A LACK of a reliable internet connection is severely hampering the local high street, a Whitehaven businessman has claimed.

Dave Coyles, a director of Whitehaven electronics store Brooks, has spoken out after his business lost its internet connection on December 29 – and was not due to be reconnected until today (Thursday) – severely hampering its operations during a peak trading time.

“Our business – like most others – is now totally dependent on internet connectivity,” said Mr Coyles.

“We have reached a point where reliable internet connection is no longer a luxury but a necessity – certainly for UK businesses and probably for the general public as well.

“So if the government is serious about wanting the high street to survive, it must ensure shops and businesses have good internet access 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Sadly that is not currently the situation.”

A £51m contract to bring superfast broadband to 93 per cent of Cumbrian homes and businesses was signed in November last year.

Cumbria County Council and BT signed the deal, and once the council’s Cabinet has met this month to agree a set of priorities which will determine the order in which communities get connected, BT will embark on a two-year roll-out that will deliver speeds of up to 80Mbps.

Each community and business will soon be told at which point in the two-year programme it will be connected and what speeds to expect. Those that require higher speeds will be given advice and support.

However, Allan Mossop, the West Cumbrian branch chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, fears that town centres like Whitehaven will be overlooked during the roll-out in favour of rural areas.

“Broadband in this area is not as efficient as it should be, and it goes off all the time for no reason at all,” he said. “Small businesses in the Whitehaven area have often complained to me about this problem, and it certainly needs to be looked at.

“My concern is that when the superfast broadband is rolled out, rural areas are being prioritised, and while it is okay for them, I hope that it is not at the expense of larger industrial areas, which I think should be given the priority to keep businesses online and afloat.”

Mr Coyles added: “No amount of window-dressing by Mary Portas will save the high street if basics such as internet access goes offline for days at a time – particularly at peak trading times such as Christmas and New Year.

“Shops must be able to compete with online and overseas traders and this can’t be done until the government ensures UK traders have a solid infrastructure in place.”

Meanwhile, a new report has stated that the government should not be solely fixated on broadband speed, but should focus instead on helping all homes and businesses have access to an effective connection.

The report, by independent think tank the Policy Exchange, has found that two thirds of people think that good basic broadband coverage for the whole country is more important than chasing very fast speeds in some areas at the expense of others.

Have your say

@James O - that's a terrible way for Freeview to conduct business. I'm in Workington and get the full set of channels from Caldbeck - surely all they need is a repeater transmitter.

Oh, and we got these channels well before the official Whitehaven Go-Live date.

Absolute disgrace. Mind you, you're not missing a lot - half a dozen shopping channels and several channels showing repeats of Top Gear, The Duchess of Duke Street & Columbo all day every day. Sometimes you have trouble finding something decent to watch, even despite the fact that there are about 40 channels.

Posted by Derek on 17 January 2013 at 10:28

With regards to Colins comment on freeview, i contacted ofcom regarding this as i felt we were being cheated on with the channels,they say that digital services are only allowed to broadcast the four main channels that we pay a licence for,any other channel or company has their choice whether to broadcast their channels in cumbria,i was told off ofcom if they are not broadcasting their channels in cumbria it is because they will not get enough viewers and it is not economical to them that is why it is so poor,very discrimative to the region but thats whats happening.

Posted by James O on 15 January 2013 at 12:43

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