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Retired BA pilot Peter Randall has had problems with poor internet connectivity at his home in the village of Woolston, North Cadbury, for some time which he puts down to copper wiring from the nearest cabinet.

Thanks to Wessex Internet and Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS), his is the first of 3,600 properties to be connected to ultrafast full fibre broadband in a publicly funded three-year rollout across South Somerset.

Peter, 86 and his wife Imelda, 83, a former State Registered Nurse were delighted when they first heard from Wessex Internet earlier this year. Both in their eighties, they use the internet daily for online shopping, emailing, watching films and concerts and keeping in touch with their married four daughters and nine grandchildren. Imelda facetimes the family in Vancouver and Edinburgh for regular catch ups. The couple, who have lived in Woolston for over 50 years, say that a car and a reliable internet connection are essential these days for rural living.

Peter said: “I’m full of admiration for Wessex Internet taking the bull by the horns to connect rural areas. We have put up with an intermittent service and cannot wait to have full fibre. As I am severely deaf, having a good and reliable internet connection is a great help to people like myself, who have hearing difficulties and are uncomfortable using the telephone. The garden works team who came to lay the fibre were very considerate and efficient – and my connection followed a few days later.”

Hector Gibson Fleming, CEO Wessex Internet, said: “It’s great to meet people like Peter in person and hear firsthand just how important it is to have a reliable, efficient internet connection. Residents and businesses in rural areas shouldn’t have to put up with an inferior service just because of where they live. We are delighted to be working with Connecting Devon and Somerset to help connect the countryside in South Somerset.”

Councillor David Hall, CDS Board Member and Somerset County Council Cabinet Member for Economic Development, Planning and Community Infrastructure, said: “It’s good to see fibre to the premises going in which is the next phase of the project and a great step forward. We’re trying to get to as many people as possible and we’re really reaching out to rural areas and making a difference. We live in a digital world now and we recognise how important good connectivity is to people but it’s a challenging, complex process. Everyone’s working as hard as possible, and we’ll get there as soon as we can.”

David Ralph, Chief Executive, Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), said: “The pandemic has highlighted the importance of digital connectivity and digital skills. We have seen how reliable digital services play an important role in helping people stay in touch with friends, family members and work colleagues, as well as enabling them to access key services like medical appointments, online. Throughout the past year the LEP has continued to invest in digital connectivity, digital innovation and digital skills to extend digital coverage to businesses and homes in the hard-to-reach areas of the Heart of the South West region.”

Wessex Internet will continue to connect properties in Woolston, Sutton Montis and surrounding areas, with an extensive three-year rollout scheduled that stretches from Castle Cary, down towards East Coker across to North Perrott and up to Montacute, Somerton and back to Sparkford.