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Small businesses welcome 'game-changing' broadband scheme for West Oxfordshire
A “GAME changing” scheme to bring high speed broadband to every house in West Oxfordshire has been welcomed by small business leaders.
Oxfordshire County Council has previously pledged £25m to work with BT to bring fast internet to the county – but the scheme only covers 88 per cent of households in each district.
Now West Oxfordshire District Council plans to add £1.6m to the pot to make up the remaining 12 per cent and give everyone in the district high speed access.
The district council also hopes to get match-funding from the Government and use wireless technology to add the most rural properties to the network.
The funding was agreed at the council’s cabinet meeting on Wednesday and now needs to be ratified by the Conservative-led full council in January.
Richard Langridge, cabinet member for local economy, communities and culture, said: “We know how vital broadband is to residents and to rural businesses, and it also combats isolation that residents and communities can feel.
“High speed internet access keeps communities connected and keeps businesses working the most effectively they can. It is a game-changer.
“My vision would be a series of all our rural communities connected with the world and with each other, trading with the world and leading the economic recovery.”
He said the funding would come from the council’s capital budget and would not mean cuts elsewhere to afford it.
Mr Langridge added: “When we realised that the county council contract with BT was only going to allow 88 per cent of the district to have access to high speed broadband we recognised that the 12 per cent of residents that simply would not have it needed to be helped.”
He said the council aimed to get as near to 100 per cent as possible, but warned the costs spiral as you get nearer to full coverage.
Mr Langridge said the council was working with the Government to try to get match- funding for the scheme, adding that he hoped this would bring in a total of £3.2m funding.
Brendan Cross is managing director of Witney-based communications firm STL Communications and also lets out commercial property to small businesses at the Hexagon Business Centre.
He said: “It is an excellent idea and all credit to the district council for doing it.
“A high speed internet connection is crucial to business. I know of lots of business that are moving to other areas because they can get better internet connectivity there.”
Oxfordshire Chamber of Commerce president Bob Bradley, who lives in Freeland, said: “A high speed internet connection is really important.
“It seems to be the biggest barrier to economic growth.”
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