Over the past year, many people across the Chichester Constituency have wrestled with slow broadband speeds, especially those in isolated and rural communities. Gillian has been working with local businesses and individuals to support their efforts to improve broadband connections.
As part of this work, the MP met with West Sussex County Council. According to the council at present more than 95% of premises can access ‘superfast’ broadband speeds of 30mbps or faster and of those, nearly 20% can enjoy gigabit-capable broadband services over fibre to the premises technology. This is in line with the national picture where 97% of the UK is ‘superfast’ and 21% is fully fibred.
Coverage by commercial supplier CityFibre is being accelerated in Chichester this year with 15,000 homes and businesses ultimately expected to benefit. In rural areas communities have been supported to take advantage of the government’s Gigabit Voucher Scheme which is being ‘topped up’ by West Sussex Councils for qualifying premises. As a result, an extra 1,500 premises in the district are expected to be connected to gigabit-capable broadband in the next 12 months benefitting from an extra £2million of investment by the government and West Sussex Councils.
Despite the significant improvements in the ability to access super-fast infrastructure, there are still issues for communities who are either too remote to benefit from such improvements. As well as others, who may struggle to bring the wider community together to enable people to take advantage of the improvements. The MP met with the Council where they too shared concerns with people often being unaware of their ability to access super-fast broadband or an inability to arrange for the upgrade within the community.
Gillian has requested a meeting with the Minister responsible at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to see what system improvements can be made.
After the WSCC meeting, Gillian said, “Over the past year and a half we’ve all relied on our home broadband like never before, and for many of us, it has been challenging to say the least. It is clear our local Council are dedicated to improving people’s broadband, as is the Government, however, it seems there are still barriers in place that prevent those who could benefit from doing so. I hope that by raising these issues with my Ministerial colleagues, we can make the process of bringing community projects together simpler and easier.”
Councillor Paul Marshall, Leader of West Sussex County Council said: “All West Sussex Councils share an ambition for the county to benefit from the fastest, most reliable digital connectivity whether broadband or mobile coverage. Nearly all of West Sussex is ‘superfast’ and increasingly communities are becoming gigabit-capable with fibre connections to individual homes and businesses. We are working with commercial suppliers to accelerate their investment in the county and coverage by the three largest providers Openreach, Virgin Media and CityFibre means nearly 20% of Chichester premises are now gigabit-capable. Smaller communities in the district have achieved £2million additional investment through the national Gigabit Voucher Scheme and West Sussex ‘top ups’ enabling an extra 1,000 homes and businesses to look forward to futureproof fibre broadband in the next 12 months. At this time of recovery from the global pandemic it is even more important to ensure people have access to the services they need online and to be able to choose to live, work and school from home.”