Alok Sharma, the Member of Parliament for Reading West, last week met in Parliament with Tim Smith MBE, Business Director and Margot Tomkinson-Smith, Communications Manager at Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership (TVB LEP) to discuss business concerns about broadband provision in Berkshire and has called for further action to improve the coverage of access to superfast broadband in the sub region.
Some businesses have complained about the lack of availability of fast broadband and have warned that it is slowing job creation efforts. Abbey Windows have recently moved premises to benefit from a larger business premises and showroom on Portman Road, close to central Reading, but broadband suppliers are unable to offer speeds of more than 1Mb/s, despite speeds of over 30Mb/s available in other nearby areas of Reading.
Andrew Young, Managing Director of Abbey Windows said: “Our speed here is running at as little as 0.10Mb. Downloading supplier information is slow and uploading videos to Youtube, which are to be an integral part of our website, can take 3 hours each. In addition, day to day use of the internet is very slow and with potentially ten of us here using it, we need to ration its access to avoid reducing the speed further. This has slowed our plans of expansion and further job creation.”
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. The Government has also committed £530m in funding to stimulate commercial investment to roll out high speed broadband in rural communities and to deliver a high-speed service to areas which are not covered by a commercial roll-out.
Alok Sharma has written to BT and to Government Ministers and had meetings on the issue of securing consistent coverage of superfast broadband in Berkshire. Businesses and residents can register an interest in receiving superfast broadband online at www.superfastberkshire.org.uk. This is a website, set up in conjunction with all of the unitary authorities in Berkshire as well as the TVB LEP which can be used by broadband providers to gauge the level of interest in an area and encourage them to invest.
Alok Sharma said: “Securing faster broadband in Reading is absolutely essential for business and for future growth and so I am delighted to support the campaign being spearheaded by the Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership to secure super-fast and ultra-fast broadband speeds in Berkshire and I will continue to support those efforts with other Berkshire MPs in any way I can.”
Alok continued: “It is concerning to hear that businesses are being prevented from
expanding as fast as they would like due to the patchy nature of access to fast broadband. Securing superfast broadband with universal coverage is an absolute priority for businesses like Abbey Windows and I want to hear from other businesses in my constituency, which are experiencing problems due to slow broadband speeds.”
Tim Smith MBE, Business Director at Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership said: “Thames Valley Berkshire LEP is a business led body, working to maintain the status of the sub region as the engine of the UK economy and Superfast Berkshire is a key priority for us. It will not only secure Berkshire’s position as a world class economy, but will also make a huge difference to businesses and home workers alike. It will improve the quality of life of 140,000 people and 44,000 households in Berkshire that can be regarded as digitally excluded – by improving education, health and employment outcomes.”
Photo: Alok Sharma at the opening of Abbey Windows in November 2011