COMMUNITIES in the Rye area face a longer wait for faster broadband internet speeds.
The blame is being laid at the door of the European Commission by East Sussex County Council leader Peter Jones who has accused the Commission of failing to sign off a contractor to upgrade the area’s broadband.
It is bad news for Winchelsea and Icklesham, which has the slowest broadband speeds in the UK. It limps along at a snail’s pace of 1.1 Mbps, making downloading from websites a tortuous task for residents and businesses.
Winchelsea Councillor Richard Comotto has carried out broadband speed tests in the town, in a bid to support the case for faster broadband.
He commented: “I know we are supposed to be an ancient town but this is ridiculous.
Coun Jones chairs the South East 7 Partnership, which has been allocated £57 million towards faster broadband rollout in the South East and has been pushing for action for the past 12 months.
He said: “The EU has to give to approval to all projects that use public funds. So far it has agreed to do so as it does not agree with the UK over some technical points.
“Local authorities from the South East 7 Partnership have been working hard for the past year to get broadband plans approved. The money we have been allocated is a major achievement in today’s financial climate and shows the strength of our commitment.
“We are furious that European bureaucracy is holding up essential progress.”
East Sussex County Council has stumped up £15 million and the Government £10.5 million toward the project.
Now the partnership has written to MP’s and MEPs urging them to put pressure on the European Commission but Cllr Jones believes the real cause of delay is down to an unsigned contract.
Cllr Jones said: “There are two preferred contractors and all the Commission has to do is sign off but they are being dilatory on the matter. It’s staggering. We are all keen to get this completed.
“We need the European Commission to resolve these issues very soon so we can get on with the important job of getting superfast broadband rolled out to our businesses and residents.
“The EU need to pull their finger out and get on with it.”
The government wants to see super-fast broadband as the gold standard in most UK homes, and has pledged to make the UK the fastest broadband nation in Europe by 2015. By that time, it also promises to make sure that all homes have speeds of at least 2Mbps.
“Britain might be riding the wave of a super-fast broadband revolution, but for 49% who get less than the national average broadband speed, the wave isn’t causing so much a splash as a ripple,” said Julia Stent, director of telecoms at uSwitch.
The government has provided £530m to help local councils fill in the UK’s blackspots.
When the rollout is complete it is estimated that 40 percent of homes in East Sussex would benefit from broadband speeds of up to 20 megabits a second.