MP says faster broadband is vital for Devon’s economy

Central Devon MP Mel Stride says access to faster broadband for rural businesses is vital for the future of Devon’s economy.

Cllr Kevin Ball,
Mel Stride MP
and Airband Operations Director Peter Mathers at the site of the new mast

Mr Stride was speaking at a turf-cutting to mark the start of construction on a new wireless broadband mast at Okehampton Business Park. It’s the latest in a network being built by internet service provider Airband for the Government-supported Connecting Devon and Somerset broadband programme.

Mel Stride MP – Central Devon

The MP said: “There is no doubt that in our digital age inadequate internet speeds hold businesses back and impact on economic growth and job creation. It’s vital that our rural businesses have access to faster broadband to help ensure the future of Devon’s economy is vibrant and prosperous.

“That’s why I am delighted that the Government is investing tens of millions of pounds in the Connecting Devon and Somerset broadband programme, and companies like Airband are improving speeds in some of the most isolated areas of Devon. It is huge engineering achievement in challenging conditions, especially across the moors, but it is making a real difference to our businesses and communities.”

One company that is benefiting from the new network is Okehampton-based Clinical Architecture. It’s director, Andrew Frangleton, said that poor broadband had been undermining business growth.

“We had 0.5 Mbps upload and 12 Mbps download which was very difficult for us to work with. We provide software solutions to optimise healthcare data, so working in this field it’s really important that we have a robust broadband connection,” he said.

But in February last year the firm contacted Airband to see if the new network it’s building for Connecting Devon and Somerset could help. Airband was able to provide a high-speed wireless connection delivering upload and download speeds of 50 mbps from one of its existing masts.

Sixteen companies on Okehampton Business Park now have access to high speed broadband, and the new mast due to be completed in May will extend coverage to 88 more businesses and homes in the Okehampton area.

Mr Stride said it was important that people could find out easily if faster broadband was available in their area. “I am pleased that Airband has launched new postcode checker which will help more homes and businesses see whether they can access faster speeds”, he commented.

Cllr Rufus Gilbert

Commenting on the transforming effect of the broadband roll-out for Devon businesses, Connecting Devon and Somerset board member, Councillor Rufus Gilbert, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Economy and Skills, said: “I am delighted to see such real-world examples of businesses benefitting from the roll-out of superfast broadband into some of the hardest to reach parts of rural Devon. It’s particularly encouraging to hear how improved connectivity can make such a difference to how businesses can compete in the region.”

Councillor Kevin Ball

Councillor Kevin Ball, County Councillor for Okehampton Rural, said:  “One of the things that I fed back early on in this project was to have solid broadband connectivity and I’m delighted that’s being delivered in Okehampton by Airband, Connecting Devon and Somerset and Devon County Council. Most businesses now have an online presence and many businesses like Clinical Architecture depend on a fast broadband connection – and this network will deliver that in the business park which is great news. It will also benefit fringe properties in sight of the mast which is good news all round.”

Airband’s network for Connecting Devon and Somerset will provide access to superfast broadband for around 24,000 homes and businesses across Mid Devon, North Devon, Torridge, West Devon and West Somerset including Dartmoor and Exmoor National Parks. The whole network is expected to be completed by December 2019.

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