Fownhope has become the latest community to be connected to faster broadband through the Fastershire project.
Around 300 homes and businesses in Fownhope can now access faster broadband, with work to make the technology available to more properties continuing. When added to BT’s commercial roll-out of fibre broadband in Herefordshire, the Fastershire programme has so far taken coverage to more than 55 percent of the county. The project aims to make faster broadband available to around 90 per cent of Herefordshire homes and businesses by the end of 2016, with most homes and businesses being able to get speeds of more than 30 megabits per second (Mbps) and everyone in the project area being able to access a minimum of 2Mbps, making it one of the fastest rural counties in England*.
Kevin Braybrook, a pharmaceutical industry consultant, and his wife Claire run ‘The Bowens’ Bed and Breakfast in Fownhope, which was one of the first businesses in the village to order a fibre service. Kevin, who is also a member of Fownhope Parish Council, said: “A fast, reliable broadband connection is key to running a successful business, and high speed internet has become an essential part of everyday life. We operate a B&B business in a rural area, but our guests expect to find the same level of connectivity that they are used to at home. Being able to offer high speed wireless internet enables us to compete with larger hotels in urban areas.”
Kevin also runs his own consultancy business from home and went on to say: "Home working is an increasingly important part of rural life and the internet is a vital business tool. I could not operate my consulting business without the internet and access to high speed fibre now gives me more efficient access to international data and the ability to communicate with my clients around the world using video-conferencing. The internet has opened up the option of home working to thousands of rural residents, which brings financial and environmental benefits to rural communities. Faster broadband connectivity will enable home workers to develop their businesses using online marketing tools which might previously have been difficult to access. The difference that faster broadband makes to the future viability of rural communities like Fownhope is immense. Small businesses across the county will now be able to compete effectively in the international marketplace."
Councillor John Hardwick, ward member for Fownhope, said: “Like many communities in Herefordshire we have been waiting a while for fibre to reach us as being able to use fast broadband will make a massive difference to people and businesses in this community, and help keep the village connected and vibrant.”
“Ian Binks, BT’s regional manager for Herefordshire and the West Midlands, said: “We recognise the positive impact that better connectivity can have on rural communities and are working hard to ensure as many people have access to fibre broadband as quickly as possible. I am delighted that we have now been able to bring better fibre broadband to these first homes and businesses in Fownhope. Enhanced internet access is critical to the sustainability and growth of rural economies; it empowers better provision of local services and impacts positively on quality of life. The roll out of the network is a major engineering task, made particularly challenging in Herefordshire, which is an extraordinarily rural county where no single community outside of the city of Hereford has more than 12,000 residents*”
Once the fibre network has reached an area, the upgrades do not happen automatically – local people have to place an order for the high-speed technology with an internet service provider. Because the Openreach network is ‘open’, residents and businesses have a wide choice of companies offering fibre broadband, with more than 140 providers currently operating across the UK, ensuring competitive prices.
Information on likely speeds along with the process and tips on ordering a service can be found at the Fastershire website (www.fastershire.com). The website also gives details of a business bursary scheme unique to Herefordshire that will provide extra support for companies to be connected.