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Broadband and Telecoms are a Bigger Worry than Brexit in Somerset

Thursday, January 3rd, 2019 (10:16 am) - Score 759
confused consumer man uk

A new survey of 92 businesses in the UK county of Somerset, which was conducted by the Somerset Chamber of Commerce (SCC), has revealed that local firms are more concerned about issues around education and skills (56%) and digital infrastructure (52%) than the imminent arrival of Brexit (42%).

Studies conducted by the CBI and FSB suggest that many businesses are still unprepared for Brexit, which is partly due to the current lack of political agreement. This means nobody knows for certain what to expect on 29th March 2019 or even if it will be delayed. Even those that have done some work to prepare for the worst case scenario still aren’t completely sure of the full impact on their trade and supply lines.

Nevertheless the latest 2018 SCC membership survey suggests that many businesses are instead focusing upon more familiar areas. In terms of the Chamber’s lobbying activity, respondents felt that influencing the Somerset skills agenda (62%) and lobbying for improved digital infrastructure (56%), such as faster broadband ISP connectivity or better mobile coverage, should be top of their priorities for 2019.

At present around 90% of Somerset (England) should be able to access a fixed “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) connection. Meanwhile the state aid supported Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) project has been working with Openreach (BT), Gigaclear and wireless ISP Airband to extend this, but the Gigaclear contract(s) have suffered significant delays and we’re still awaiting an updated plan (here).

Stephen Henagulph, CEO of the SCC, said:

“Whilst there is considerable debate around Brexit, the results of the Somerset Chamber membership survey show that the skills shortages and broadband issues faced by the county’s businesses continue to be a significant concern.

As a result, we will be prioritising these issues and ensuring they are featured in our communication and lobbying activity at a local, regional and national level. The Chamber will continue to amplify our members’ challenges and concerns, ensuring the relevant organisations and government departments hear loud and clear what our members are saying.

I am grateful to all the members who took the time to provide feedback through our annual survey; your input is enormously valuable and helps to steer our focus for the coming year. We look forward to continuing to support and work with Chamber members and patrons in 2019 in order to make progress on these issues, fixing the fundamentals so that our county’s businesses have the best possible chance of success and growth.”

The SCC claims to already be doing their part, such as by putting plans in place that aim to address some of the concerns and provide greater support and value for local businesses in 2019. This includes working with broadband providers to “facilitate communication and get the best possible coverage” for Somerset businesses, including pushing for the introduction of 5G across the county.

In reality mobile operators tend to follow their own strict internal plans for network coverage, which will inevitably always focus upon connecting up the most urban areas first. Meanwhile anything the SCC can do to improve broadband coverage is welcome, although we suspect that their ability to influence the current roll-out pace will be very limited (this is affected by many complicated factors linked to funding, engineering challenges, technology and so forth).

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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7 Responses
  1. Avatar Guy Cashmore

    Hardly a surprise, Connecting Devon and Somerset who are responsible for delivering BDUK looks to be on the point of collapse, even our MP’s can’t get answers, CDS is in lock down mode. Phase 1 only reached 82% Superfast coverage in my constituency, not the 90% CDS were handed funding to deliver, not surprisingly people want answers. Those with under 2 Mbps can’t even access the voucher scheme here, been suspended by CDS for over 2 years. Its a total bloody mess, meanwhile the CDS project director Keri Denton continues to enjoy her £87,567 salary.

    • Avatar Joe

      While thankfully i’m fttp my area is 12% below USO. Though 2b fair I see a lot of work still going on…

    • Avatar AnotherTim

      Fastershire aren’t really doing any better. The Forest of Dean has over 13% or properties below USO, and like CDS their chosen provider, Gigaclear, has had to go back to the drawing board, and there are currently no dates for builds to start. A new plan was due in November, but no sign of it yet – and no replies to e-mails either.

    • Avatar Graham Long

      @AnotherTim. Fastershire have added an update on the Stage 3 Gigaclear build today at: http://www.fastershire.com/news/article/122/2019/01/03/stage-3-gigaclear-build-update

    • Avatar AnotherTim

      @Graham, thanks for the link – it wasn’t there when I looked earlier this morning (I actually check for progress every day, how sad is that?)
      It looks to me that most of those areas are in the Cotswolds, Cheltenham, or Gloucester, and most were reported finished some months ago. Gigaclear are building outwards from existing areas, and it looks as if they are now heading away from my area. The nearest is still Highnam, which is 22 miles away. The areas that were due to start six months ago aren’t even mentioned.

  2. Avatar FibreFred

    Support the Altnets!!

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