Give us faster broadband before it’s too late says MP

Five reasons why this Kent town is in the UK's top 20

The lack of high-speed broadband in rural locations around Tonbridge is frustrating home users and forcing businesses to consider relocating out of the area.

Improvements and developments in and around the town have attracted new companies which in turn is helping the local economy to grow.

But MP Tom Tugendhat says unless urgent investment is made to improve internet connections, which are vital to run businesses in the modern age, firms will start to look elsewhere.

Mr Tugendhat said: “I’ve had a huge amount of correspondence over broadband, with companies talking about leaving the area because of the lack of internet speed.

“Even in my own village the broadband speed is barely enough to open an email with.

“There are companies such as Gigaclear operating high-speed broadband in places such as Hadlow, offering some of the fastest speeds of internet in the world, so this should be possible elsewhere in the area,” added the MP, who said he would continue to seek answers from Culture Minister Ed Vaizey on the matter.

A Government Broadband Universal Service Consultation to get feedback on the problem of poor broadband speeds in rural locations ended earlier this month.

However, the Tonbridge & Malling MP claims the local internet infrastructure is in the hands of just two companies – BT and Virgin – which has created a near monopoly situation and this means villages are missing out on superfast services.

An initiative by Kent County Council (KCC) promises 95 per cent of businesses and homes in the county are to have high-speed broadband by 2018.

A spokesman also confirmed that KCC is looking at providing satellite-based internet services to properties that have slower internet speeds in the future.

But Jo James, CEO of Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce, believes that the county was a long way off having the world-beating digital infrastructure that the UK is aspiring to achieve.

She said: “The progress of the roll out of superfast broadband to rural and harder to reach areas is a great concern. Far too many businesses and consumers still have insufficient or unreliable broadband coverage, which stops entrepreneurs and exporters in their tracks.

“I can understand the focus on urban areas to start with, as due to economies of scale and distance a lot can be achieved in a much quicker time, but this should not be at the expense of the harder to reach. For the rural economy to thrive it has to have the tools to enable businesses to trade, grow and create economic wealth.”

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