BUSINESSES in isolated areas in the New Forest are being left left without a reliable internet connection after it was judged too expensive to link them up.
They are among the 2.6% of dwellings in Hampshire excluded from the £13m roll-out of superfast broadband by Hampshire County Council and infrastructure firm Openreach, owned by BT despite formally separating last year.
Properties in Acres Down in Minstead, near Lyndhurst, are tantalisingly close to gaining access to the faster service enjoyed by the rest of the village – with overhead wires left safely unconnected just yards away from homes.
One of those to have lost out is David Platt, who runs Acres Down House B&B in Minstead with his wife, Lyndsay.
He pays £100 a month for his BT package and said: “We never know from one day to the next if we have internet. I can be doing something like confirming a booking and then it disappears from the screen because it’s gone down.
“There are some things where as a business you need reasonable broadband.”
HCC, which is leading the project, said there are separate initiatives to connect more isolated properties with high speed broadband.
However, they require a contribution from residents and Mr Platt said the £12,000 that had been suggested to him for the neighbourhood was too much.
Neighbour Annie Cooper runs a campsite at Acres Down Farm. She said: “I would like the broadband to be better but I am to going to invest thousands in it. It’s not terribly adequate but it is useable.”
Parts of the New Forest are among the tens of thousands of households in Hampshire to benefit from the broadband project’s roll-out. Other areas left out include pockets of Hordle, Boldre, Pilley and East End.
In Hyde, near Fordingbridge, however, residents raised £134,000 and used a government scheme to pay for five equipment cabinets to give superfast access to nearly 350 homes.
HCC leader Cllr Roy Perry said high quality connectivity was “critical for both Hampshire residents and businesses”.
He added: “We are working with the Acres Down community to explore funding options for them to access superfast broadband as the area does not meet the cost criteria we have put in place in order to ensure value for money for all Hampshire’s council taxpayers.
“We have offered to co-fund the work via the local community match funding scheme so that all residents in Acres Down can be connected to full fibre broadband, which we hope will happen in the near future.”
A spokesperson for Openreach welcomed negotiations with residents to find a suitable alternative scheme, particularly in light of the legal right to come in by 2020 for people to request a 10Mbps-plus capable broadband connection.
She said: “We are meeting the needs of the vast majority of the county however we recognise that we can’t stop at the last 2.6%.
“Openreach will never say no to any community that wants faster broadband and we’ll do whatever we can to work with them and get fibre to their area via a joint funding arrangement.”