C&W Drops ‘Uneconomical’ Broadband For Cumbrian Community

Cable & Wireless Worldwide (C&WW) has cut the broadband service to a remote community in Cumbria, because it was “uneconomical” after the public subsidy ended.

“The government subsidy to 47 homes in the Duddon Valley in Cumbria has finished, so we reluctantly decided to terminate the broadband service there,” explained a C&WW spokesman, speaking to TechWeekEurope.

47 homes cut off

The Duddon Valley area in Cumbria is situated between Coniston and Eskdale, a remote area even in the Lake District, and is popular with walkers, mountain bikers, and rock climbers.

C&WW told Techweek Europe that it had been supplying the 47 homes in that area with a broadband radio-based service after it won a public subsidy back in 2007.

“The subsidy was issued five years ago, and the four year period has now ended,” said the C&WW spokesman. “Indeed, the administrative body of the subsidy (North West Development Agency) has also been cut. So the subsidy is gone and the agency that ran it has gone. It was not economically viable anymore.”

“If we don’t have broadband it’s going to promptly make some local businesses uneconomical,” Paul Batten, landlord at the Newfield Inn public house was quoted as saying by the Guardian newspaper. “Who is going to move here with children or to try and run a business from home without broadband?”

However, it seems that residents will not be left high and dry with no Internet access, because C&WW has managed to source the residents an alternative satellite service provider.

“Indeed, the satellite provider will be able to provide them with broadband speeds that were on offer previously,” said C&WW.

The Guardian reports that Duddon Valley residents are not overly keen on the satellite option because it is more costly, and weather conditions can adversely affect it. It also requires the installation of a satellite dish, which could require planning permission in National Trust areas.

It also appears that residents are upset that the five-year contract with C&WW has only been in use for four years.

A question of cost

It remains clear that economics was at the root of the decision. Residents were reportedly only paying £20 a month, and C&WW recently had to spend over £20,000 on a new electricity cable for the Duddon radio mast.

Cumbria is particularly at risk from poor broadband provision because of its remote location. Earlier this month Everything Everywhere said it was using its contentious 3G spectrum in Cumbria for a 4G trial.

Other initiatives in the area have seen local campaigners seek investors. In November 2009, residents in one area began digging their own trenches to help with the project which could eventually offer the parish’s 2,500 population speeds of up to 200Mbps.

This dig for broadband approach has been copied in other areas, including Lancashire.

C&WW was acquired by Vodafone in April for £1billion after months of speculation as to who would buy the struggling telecoms company.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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