Alok Sharma, the Member of Parliament for Reading West, on Friday 19th April 2013, arranged a meeting between Maria Miller, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Steve Lamb, the Chairman of the Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership (TVB LEP) and local businessman Andrew Young, Managing Director of Abbey Windows to discuss the rollout of superfast broadband.
The Portman Road industrial area of Reading is an example of how slow broadband, with speeds as slow as 0.5Mb, can affect businesses that increasingly rely on technology. Andrew Young has previously contacted Alok to ask for his help in securing superfast broadband for the industrial estate where his business is located and warned that slow broadband speeds had slowed the business’s plans for job creation. Having already invested £700,000 in Abbey's move to new premises and creating 5 new jobs, Andrew cited frustrating examples of a video upload to their new website taking over 3 hours before crashing and rationing staff access to the Internet. Mr Young explained to Maria Miller that he had contacted all of the neighbouring businesses to register interest with BT in receiving superfast broadband and BT had previously given a commitment to install superfast broadband by October 2012, but that he had received no updates from BT since that date passed.
The Secretary of State promised to write to BT to ask about their plans for the rollout of superfast broadband and to ask how they planned to update customers that had registered an interest in receiving superfast broadband.
The Coalition Government has pledged to secure superfast broadband in 90 per cent of premises and to provide universal access to standard broadband with a speed of at least 2Mbps by 2015.
Alok Sharma said: “I was very pleased that the Secretary of State was able to take the time to visit Reading and to hear about the challenges that some businesses are facing in respect of broadband speeds and I am very pleased that the Department has agreed to follow this up with BT.”
Maria Miller, Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport said: “We know how important access to broadband is to local communities so we are investing £1.2 billion over the course of this parliament to deliver a transformation in broadband by 2015, but there is always more we can do. Given how important connectivity is to businesses and enterprise it was extremely helpful to hear more about Andrew’s experiences at Abbey Windows, and I look forward to hearing from BT about how they might be able to help.”
Andrew Young, Managing Director of Abbey Windows said: “Running a business can be very frustrating at times. Having the support of your MP is great, but for a senior Government Minister to express an interest and offer their support is fantastic. The meeting gave a real insight into how large the investment in superfast broadband is nationally. We are now looking forward to seeing the results of the Minister’s efforts.”
Steve Lamb, Thames Valley Berkshire LEP Chairman added, “Thames Valley Berkshire is the UK’s answer to California’s Silicon Valley, however we are being let down by a simple lack of cable and fibre optics. Meeting Abbey Windows, a Berkshire based company, further highlighted how limited broadband speed in the sub region is having a serious impact on business.
Steve Lamb continued: “Though superfast broadband will have an improved reach in Berkshire over the next three years, the estimated 29,000 business and domestic premises requiring intervention is now believed to be 47,000 premises. Our aim is to drive better information technology infrastructure in the sub region through this initiative, and therefore welcome the support from Alok Sharma and Maria Miller on ways in which the programme could be extended to reach the increased gap within budget."
Photo: Andrew Young, Managing Director of Abbey Windows with Maria Miller, the Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport