Toby’s quest to bring parish up to speed

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Toby’s quest to bring parish up to speed

Posted: 19/08/2011 13:54:23

Broadcaster and writer Toby Murcott is on a mission - to bring high-speed internet to his local community in Abbeydore & Bacton.

Mr. Murcott is one of a volunteer force of ‘local broadband champions’ being recruited throughout rural south Herefordshire by Herefordshire Council’s Broadband Champion, Cllr Graham Powell.

The area and neighbouring Forest of Dean are among the first parts of the UK to receive Government funding to bring high-speed broadband to rural areas not considered commercially viable.

The Borders Broadband project is managed by a partnership of Herefordshire Council, Gloucestershire’s Local Enterprise Partnership GFirst, Gloucestershire County Council and Government agency, Broadband Delivery UK.

Campaign group Fast Broadband4Herefordshire (FB4H) ( is working with Cllr Powell and local parish and town councils to recruit broadband champions out in local communities.

Their role is to work within their local community and pass on information on the project’s progress, to highlight the benefits of high-speed broadband, and to show that there is demand among residents, communities and businesses.

Next month (September) the aim is to distribute, via local broadband champions, questionnaires to over 24,000 homes and businesses throughout South Herefordshire, to gather vital evidence on demand for superfast broadband.

Mr. Murcott, from Bacton, became interested in the Borders Broadband project, and has been co-opted onto Abbeydore & Bacton Parish Council as a broadband champion.

A scientist, journalist and university lecturer who produces programmes for BBC Radio 4, he says his parish’s broadband services are variable. Some residents and businesses have very low speeds while others rely on dial-up connections.

“The benefits high-speed broadband will bring are immeasurable,” he said. “Elderly people living alone can be in regular video contact with family or friends, or could consult their doctors via webcam.

“And schools are increasingly putting video lessons online. But no child is going to click on something, and then wait ages for it to download. They are going to want it now.

“The main reason I’m doing this is for my three-year-old daughter, because when she goes to school, she won’t be able to get the most out it unless she has access to faster internet.”

Cllr Graham Powell, Herefordshire’s broadband champion, said: “It is vitally important that local communities are involved in our work to deliver access to superfast broadband across the county.

“We are continuing to organize meetings with parish councils to explain the benefits of the faster broadband, and to recruit our local broadband champions. This is a real opportunity for communities to work together, to stimulate demand for the service, to conduct local surveys and to subsequently enjoy the benefits.”

If you are interested in becoming a broadband champion for your rural community, please contact: Graham Powell or FB4H organiser David Sheppard


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