The Sunday Times – Fastest internet to help Exmoor gallop out of seclusion


A faster internet may help reverse Exmoor’s population decline

One of England’s remotest regions is to get some of the nation’s fastest internet connections under plans to create “Heather Valley” — a smaller version of California’s SiliconValley — in Devon and Somerset.

A network of 40 masts installed across Exmoor National Park will use microwave transmitters to relay the internet to the remotest areas, giving people sufficient bandwidth to trade on the stock market, run a hi-tech business or watch high-definition films from the most isolated of cottages. A similar network will span Dartmoor.

“Many Exmoor properties are so remote that they are not even connected to mains electricity or drainage yet, let alone the internet,” said David Wyborn, head of planning at Exmoor National Park Authority. “Most people also live in deep valleys so their phones are linked to miles of copper cable, which makes the data link too slow.

The unique beauty of Exmoor National Park
“This network should give Exmoor broadband speeds similar to the best in cities.”

The failure to bring broadband to the countryside has been an embarrassment for the government. Ofcom last week ruled that BT’s Openreach division, which runs the UK’s broadband infrastructure, should become a distinct company within the BT group, despite campaigners accusing it of “woeful levels of service” and demanding it be split off.
One aim of the Exmoor project is to reverse the area’s population decline. Just 10,200 people now live in its 267 square miles. Improved communications could draw in small hi-tech businesses and people who want to work from home.

Oliver Edwards, whose 600-acre farm and campsite lies in a deep valley, said his three-mile copper telephone cable slowed internet access.

“I have to drive to Exford, the nearest village, to sort out visitor bookings or make farm subsidy applications,” he said.

Dan Jones, of Airband, the firm installing the broadband system, said people living in Exmoor and Dartmoor would pay £38 a month for unlimited phone and internet use.

“The masts are designed to look like traditional telegraph poles to minimise their impact,” he said.


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