Published: 22nd Jun 2016
Efforts to improve internet access in Shropshire have been called into question in the past few days, as a broadband campaign group has severed its ties with the taxpayer-funded Connecting Shropshire project.
The Shropshire and Marches Campaign for Better Rural Broadband had been working with Shropshire Council and BT on the scheme that aims to bring faster internet to the county, but has decided to walk away from the initiative due to being "disappointed" with what has been achieved so far.
Spokesperson for the group Patrick Cosgrove told the Shropshire Star: "There is little useful purpose in continuing with its membership of Connecting Shropshire’s rural broadband group.
"We have been disappointed. Attendance at the group has been patchy, agendas pre-set, and conditions of confidentiality too inhibiting for our campaign to express its views freely. We fear that publicity from the present broadband project will increasingly be used for political purposes."
Mr Cosgrove claimed the campaigners were originally hopeful that Connecting Shropshire would work with communities and interested parties to develop innovative means of improving rural broadband.
He said the project has failed to deliver on a number of its initial objectives, such as prioritising those households with poor broadband or none at all, and providing a minimum service level that is higher than the government's current universal commitment of two Mbps.
Steve Charmley, the Shropshire Council cabinet member in charge of broadband, said the local authority is disappointed with the campaign group's decision, but will continue to keep it informed on the progress of the scheme.
The Shropshire and Marches Campaign for Better Rural Broadband has been vocally critical of the level of connectivity in Shropshire.
In January, Mr Cosgrove told the Shropshire Star the government's plans to only bring super-fast connectivity to between 90 and 95 per cent of the county would have a negative impact on local economies and cause house prices to fall in certain areas.
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