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Mel Stride MP calls for extra rural broadband funding in Devon

Tuesday, September 27th 2011
The Central Devon MP warned remote communities may be left without suitable broadband access.
Mel Stride MP calls for extra rural broadband funding in Devon
A south-west MP has called on the government to provide additional funding for broadband services in isolated communities throughout the region.

Central Devon MP Mel Stride wrote to Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman to warn that a gap exists between the money already pledged by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition and the amount it will realistically cost to extend high-speed connectivity to remote villages, reports the Western Morning News.

Some £30 million has been granted to a joint application from Devon and Somerset that will help pay for the deployment of super-fast broadband across the two counties, while an additional £20 million has been raised by local councils.

But Mr Stride believes the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs' (Defra's) Community Broadband Fund should be tapped to secure next-generation access for every home and business in the West Country.

"I am urging Defra to provide additional support for this programme for rural areas like Devon," he wrote in the letter.

"It is very clear that the best available internet connections and speeds are vital for our businesses and communities in Devon, but traditionally we have lagged behind the rest of the country due to the remoteness of many of our rural communities."

Although he accepted the joint Devon and Somerset project will go "a long way" to ensuring better broadband services for the majority of residents, the politician stated support from Defra will still prove "very important".

Mr Stride has met with several groups - including householders in Exminster and Crediton Town Council - that are interested in boosting their broadband infrastructure.

Devon currently has an average broadband sync speed of 6.4Mbps, according to recent research from Ofcom, leaving the county lagging behind much of the rest of the UK.

Some 17.2 per cent of homes in the county are stuck with speeds of less than 2Mbps, although around the same amount are able to access super-fast broadband. 

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