years the issue of broadband speeds has become increasingly prevalent in my email inbox. There are two different issues within the Borough. One is the ability to obtain even a basic broadband speed in rural areas, especially for those trying to run a business, and the other is the capacity to have superfast broadband in Ashford.
The latter problem is I know on the agenda of the Borough Council, who are taking imaginative steps to make sure Ashford’s businesses can compete in this digital area. And the rural issue has been rightly on the agenda of Kent County Council whose use of the BDUK programme has bought relief to many people in the villages.
For all this laudable effort it is impossible to gainsay the facts. The House of Commons Library has researched all areas of the country, and although the average download speed for Ashford is about average, in the middle 20% of constituencies in the UK, this disguises some significant holes.
We have a higher than average percentage of connections unable to receive speeds of 10Mbps, and we rank in the bottom 10 per cent of areas for those receiving connections of below 2Mbps. It is little consolation that we have slightly higher average speeds than Folkestone or Faversham, and significantly higher than Canterbury or Hastings.
Looking in more detail, the availability of superfast broadband by ward is best in Stanhope, Bybrook and Tenterden North. Of those unable to receive even 2Mbps, the worst is Rolvenden and Tenterden West, which one can at least say is a rural area with difficult connections, but the second worst is South Willesborough.
There is some hope that the separation of Openreach from the main BT operation will encourage more competition in the market, which will allow other operators to offer improved service. It is certainly necessary to allow everyone to expect an acceptable broadband speed.