Villagers say they have been dropped into a ‘black hole of communication networks’.
Residents in Ebernoe say they are one of the only parishes across the area not to have received superfast broadband from West Sussex County Council’s (WSCC) Better Connected project.
Now councillors fear Ebernoe could become ‘a geriatric village with nothing but a nice nature reserve’.
They have won the support of MP Nick Herbert, who has pledged to raise the issue at an autumn summit, ‘to connect places like Ebernoe, by whatever means possible’.
The village is home to more than 30 businesses and two industrial estates.
Chairman of Ebernoe Parish Council Ann Tyrrell said broadband was getting ‘slower and slower’.
The parish is bounded by Northchapel, Lurgashall, Petworth and Kirdford, which are set to have full coverage as part of the superfast broadband roll-out.
“WSCC informed us local communities and businesses can have no influence on the provision of superfast broadband.
“It makes no difference if communities kick up a fuss, which seems to me to be undemocratic,” added Mrs Tyrrell.
Parish councillors said they were ‘concerned about the lack of action and commitment to the provision of superfast broadband to homes and businesses within the parish’, adding Ebernoe could fail to attract new businesses and families with children as a result.
Parish clerk Helen Scott said: “At the last meeting of Ebernoe Parish Council deep concern was expressed by all present about the seeming black hole in communication networks into which the whole parish may well be dropped.
“With virtually no mobile telephone access and desperately slow broadband we see that all our neighbours are being supplied with superfast broadband.”
MP pledges his support
MP for Arundel and the South Downs Nick Herbert has been a leading campaigner for bringing broadband to rural communities.
“Despite the progress which has been made in bringing superfast broadband to larger villages and towns, there are still rural areas of West Sussex which can’t get it,” he said.
Earlier this year, Mr Herbert spoke in a House of Commons debate, calling for superfast broadband to be extended to rural areas to close the ‘digital divide’ between town and country.
He added: “I’m concerned about a growing ‘digital divide’, and this autumn will be holding another broadband summit to discuss how we can make sure that places like Ebernoe will be connected, by whatever means possible.
“Good broadband isn’t a luxury - increasingly it’s a necessity and we can’t allow rural areas to lose out. This issue is one of my priorities and I am attending a meeting of the new All Party Parliamentary Group on Digital Communication and Broadband this week where the challenge of getting broadband into rural areas will be discussed. I am keen to hear from constituents who still have problems in accessing superfast broadband, both so that I can try and help and to build a dossier to present to West Sussex County Council and the government on the scale of the problem.”
WEST Sussex County Council’s Better Connected project aims to provide 95 per cent of the county with superfast broadband by the end of 2017.
Ebernoe is currently ‘under evaluation’ by the Better Connected team.
Wisborough Green welcomed faster broadband in July this year, and the £20 million project has made high-speed fibre broadband available to more than 10,000 homes and businesses in towns and villages including Billingshurst, Bosham, Fittleworth, Graffham, Kirdford, Petworth, Pulborough, Selsey, Sidlesham, Storrington and West Chiltington.
A West Sussex County Council spokesperson said: “Our West Sussex Better Connected project with BT means that 95 per cent of the county will have access to superfast broadband by the end of 2017, in line with the government’s target.
“As a complex and costly engineering project, we always expected there would be parts of the county where it would not be simple to put the infrastructure in place and so we are exploring every avenue to see if extra funding is available to help those areas.
“We should know by the end of October whether Ebernoe may benefit from securing additional funding.
“We are in contact with the parish council and local members and are fully aware how much they want faster broadband speeds.”
For details see Better Connected
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