Last chance to sign up for super fast broadband in rural Teesdale and Weardale as deadline extension is discounted (From The Advertiser Series)
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Last chance to sign up for super fast broadband in rural Teesdale and Weardale as deadline extension is discounted
A NORTH-EAST MP has labelled the Government's efforts to introduce super fast broadband to rural areas as a disgrace.
Bishop Auckland MP Helen Goodman's comments came as she urged residents, community groups and businesses in far-flung parts of Teesdale and Weardale to signal their support for efforts to improve online connection speeds.
Durham County Council is trying to secure £1.53m through the Government's Community Broadband Fund to provide a better service in part of the dales.
To do so, the county must prove it has at least 50 per cent support for the scheme from those living and working in the areas which would benefit.
However, time is running out – the deadline for people to register their support runs out tomorrow (Friday, March 22).
“I really would urge people to sign up for super fast broadband – it will be a big boost for our local area in both jobs and social terms,” said Ms Goodman.
“But I think the way the Government is failing to organise rural broadband is a disgrace because people living in the countryside are only half as likely as those in towns to have access.”
Durham County Council has come under fire for the way it has gone about drumming up support for the scheme.
Members of the Teesdale Action Partnership (TAP) had asked for an extension to the deadline, but a Durham County Council spokeswoman said that as it had been set by the Government's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, it could not be changed.
As the exercise is simply to gauge the level of support for super fast broadband, it is not subject to the rules and regulations of a full consultation process, which would have given people at least eight weeks to respond.
TAP chairman David Kinch said: “Whether you call it a consultation or a demand registration exercise, I don't think people in the dales have been treated properly -they have not been given enough time.”
Two final information meetings are being held today (Thursday) in Teesdale for anyone wanting to know more about the scheme.
The first meeting will be held at Lunedale Community Centre, near Middleton-in-Teesdale, from 1pm to 3.30pm and at the Fox and Hounds pub, Cotherstone, from 5pm to 7pm.
Alternatively, anyone in the areas covered by the scheme and wishing to register their support can do so by completing an online survey. Go to durham.gov.uk and search for 'broadband survey.'
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