High speed broadband helps flood-hit Muchelney firms rebuild their businesses

Across Langport, Somerton and Castle Cary, more than 6,440 households and businesses can access superfast fibre broadband thanks to the CDS rollout scheme; news welcomed by MP David Warburton.

The multi-million pound Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) partnership is helping the revitalisation of a Somerset village, which was hit by its worst flooding for 90 years.

Muchelney, which captured the headlines when it was hit by major flooding in 2014 and suffered some further flooding last month, is one of the latest communities to benefit from the CDS roll-out of superfast broadband.

Businesses and households in Muchelney now have access to broadband speeds up to 80Mbps. They are among more than 6,440 premises included in the CDS fibre roll-out across Langport, Somerton and Castle Cary.

The new connection follows recent improvements by Somerset County Council to the road network in Muchelney. An award-winning road scheme resulted in 500 metres of highway raised by up to 1.3 metres to help prevent residents from becoming stranded in heavy rain and flooding.

Councillor David Hall, Somerset County Council’s cabinet member for business inward investment and policy, said: “Stable, reliable superfast broadband connections are crucial to support communities that need to be as flood resilient as possible. The CDS connections played an important part in supporting people to rebuild their homes and businesses and get back on their feet. Together with the innovative road raising work, the superfast broadband speeds will help to secure the future of our villages with an extra layer of infrastructure.”

Across Muchelney, businesses have praised the new infrastructure developments.

One business quick to sign up to the new technology was Carolyn Roche, owner of Thorney Farm holiday cottages based in the heart of Muchelney. Carolyn ordered superfast broadband to help speed up the recovery of her business and improve the company website.

She said: “Naturally, we’ve immediately upgraded our systems and we’re delighted that we’re able to offer free wi-fi speeds of over 30mbps to all our guests in all the cottages – a vast improvement from the capacity of 2mbps we had (not at all enjoyed) previously.

“Superfast broadband has made a tremendous improvement to our livelihood. We can update the business website much faster than before when taking bookings and without keeping the customer waiting on the phone.

“In light of the flooding, we have used the superfast connection to set-up a village communication system which allows us to send information to everyone in times of flooding. Thanks to superfast broadband, we are always connected to the outside world no matter what nature throws at us.”

David Warburton, MP for Somerton and Frome, said: “It’s been a real test in recent years overcoming the challenges of flooding. It’s great to see Muchelney championing how far the region has come and the role CDS has played in providing superfast broadband on top of all the hard work Somerset County Council has done to ensure these villages are much more resilient in the future. Broadband provision plays a key role in helping business operations and jobs. Moving forward we hope to see this new technology bringing even more benefits to the local economy.”

Paul Coles, South West regional manager for BT, which is investing £41 million in the CDS programme, said: “The arrival of high-speed fibre broadband in Muchelney is another great example of the huge benefits offered by this exciting technology. It is truly a ‘game changing’ technology, which helps to make businesses more competitive and efficient, and allows households to take full advantage of the latest on-line learning and entertainment. Our engineers played an important role in helping communities severely affected by bad weather get back on their feet. Now major investment in fibre broadband is helping those communities take another vital step forwards.”

The programme is making excellent progress to provide faster broadband to the ‘final third’ of premises unlikely to benefit from the private sector’s commercial broadband investment, the majority in rural locations. Since its launch in 2013, CDS has made high speed fibre broadband available to more than 261,000 households and businesses, of which more than 221,000 have access to superfast broadband speeds in excess of 24mbps. Not only is the infrastructure being put in place, but CDS has seen the average take up rate by local households and businesses grow rapidly to 21.75 per cent.