Sunday, 17 August 2014

Survey results: Why is Penzance town centre coming last on superfast broadband?

Below is the results of my survey on superfast broadband in Penzance town center. You can see my earlier posts on the subject here and in the Cornishman here. I provide a quick overlook at the results of the survey and some information from them. It is abundantly clear that organisations in the town centre feel a great deal of disappointment with the speed of superfast roll out. Again and again frustration is felt by businesses who have enquired of BT and Superfast Cornwall when Superfast broadband i.e. fibre to the premises (FTTP) will be available, with various deadlines given that have all come and gone. It was widely anticipated that FTTP would have been available a couple of years ago, nearer the start of the project in 2010 then the end of the project 2015. Despite the fact that Penzance's streets have been dug up and fibre cabling installed it is not yet available and the town centre is part of the 15% of the area not yet elgible for FTTP. Needless to say various organisations feel so frustrated and bemused that they can see where the trenches were dug yards from their premises yet that few yards bears no relation to how close getting FTTP is.

In terms of the survey I successfully had 13 organisations in Penzance town centre and 1 in Newlyn respond to the survey. I have been in contact with others, notably Penzance Chamber of Commerce and a few other businesses who have expressed the same kinds of frustrations as the respondents, but were either too busy or too sick of thinking about the whole thing to respond. I would have liked more organisations, but I guess many are busy and the big retail chains, restaurants, bakers and takeaways I did not get into contact with. Perhaps many that didn't respond saw little benefit to superfast and are primarily based in the good old folks through the door shopping. Or perhaps personally speaking to every business rather than emailing/ facebook messaging would have been more successful.

All of the respondents used the internet to generate business.

On a scale of 1 to 10, (1 meaning the internet was not important and 10 very important) answers were:

  • 1 0%
  • 2 0%
  • 3 0%
  • 4 7%
  • 5 7%
  • 6 0%
  • 7 0%
  • 8 21%
  • 9 7%
  • 10 57%

Would a fast connection improve your business?

  • Yes 86%
  • No 7%
  • Don't know 7%
Do you have access to Superfast Broadband?
  • Yes 0%
  • No 100%
  • Don't know 0%
Would you upgrade to superfast is available?
  • Yes 79%
  • No 7%
  • Don't know 14%
Without superfast in the town centre, would you consider relocating? 
  • Yes 7%
  • No 71%
  • Don't know 21%
Below some of the comments forwarded: 
"Absolutely bonkers that the town centre has not got superfast broadband when places like Newlyn where I live have had it for a while now. Should be other way round! Would certainly help our business. Internet trading is improving year on year."

"Never quite understood why the centre of town, a few yards from exchange last to get it ?"
"Our company has created a new service that should be going live within the next six months. It is crucial for the service that we have FTTP into our office. The critical part is the upload speed that fibre provides since this service will be sending data to the client side. If we do not have fibre by the time we are ready to go live, sadly we will have no other option but to relocate our office, leaving yet another commercial space unoccupied in the town centre. We have found the whole thing very frustrating because despite regular enquires about when we will be getting FTTP (beginning over one year ago), we have never been given any answer more detailed than "it's not available at the moment". It makes it nearly impossible for companies to plan for the future if BT will not give a reason for why we are not able to receive FTTP yet, or give us a rough idea of when it might be implemented. Thank you for your email and involvement with this issue."

"It is astonishing that the facility is not available in the town centre. CC funded BT to the tune of £100m and we are NOT getting the service we deserve!!"

"It would be interesting to get a map to show the areas that are included in the 5% who will never get access - that way we will know once and for all."

"Without reliable Internet, my business cannot exist. I believe that my revenue would increase with FTTP as i could expand on the remote support services that we currently offer meaning less time out of the office. As the situation is now, I cannot offer any further services as bandwidth and reliability are so limited."

"Yes – however the plan made little sense – why install in domestic settings before business settings – other than to benefit the installers financially?"

"Not yet (available)– Given various estimates, (would you consider relocating?) Potentially - especially the ecommerce side of our business."

"I would be able to do a lot of work (accounts, updating the website etc) from home if superfast had reached there. Instead of helping rural communities, the work has stopped short (2 miles) of achieving its goal. You are right to try to improve the town centre but don't stop there! Our customers would have more money if they too could work effectively from home but many are forced to take lower paid and often seasonal work because the internet is 0.2mb !!!"

"good for business in general? it's been too patchy to be truly successful. But all the crowing over the installation of it was done too early, so people don't realise there's still so much to be done. good for Penzance? Perhaps, for those who have it. good for your business? As one of the ones left out, then no."

The statistics and the comments speak for themselves. Superfast Broadband is good for business, when the scheme was announced back in 2010. It was widely boasted that Cornwall would have the fastest broadband in the world, four years on this has not proved to be true. Quite why Penzance town centre is part of the increasingly small part of Cornwall not hooked up to superfast is not clear. When FTTP will be available also is not clear and may well be at the very end of the project. We need investment in the town, businesses trade in a competitive environment and lagging behind is a foolish option. Why is Penzance town centre coming last?

I have forwarded the results of this survey to senior members of LEP Cornwall, Cornwall Council and BT in an effort to see some progress. Any answers I receive I will publish on this blog. 

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