THE long wait for the thousands of people still expecting an upgrade to superfast broadband in Malvern is nearly over.
Bosses from BT attended a meeting with senior council officers and MP Harriett Baldwin and has pledged to deliver its fibre service to more than 20 extra cabinets in the coming weeks.
As we reported, the company had come in for criticism for failing to deliver the rollout despite assurances and for keeping residents, businesses and local authorities in the dark over its plans.
But Mrs Baldwin was buoyed by the latest talks, and believes real progress is now being made.
To date, 27 of Malvern’s 55 cabinets have been upgraded. But work will now take place to upgrade 21 more this year or in early 2013.
Work is already underway on the first cabinet, serving areas of the Enigma Business Park, Malvern’s largest employment site.
Tony Stephenson, managing director of Traplet Publications, has been anxiously awaiting the upgrade for months, saying that without it jobs – or even his firm’s future – in Malvern could be under threat.
He said it would be “wonderful” to have the cabinet upgraded and would be waiting anxiously to see the work completed.
Mrs Baldwin said: “I am pleased that we were able to have a constructive meeting with BT and I do feel that we are now making progress. “Broadband is one of the largest items in my postbag and I was eager to get all the key people together in one room to make a plan to solve this critical issue.” But she was also told during the meeting that, in parts of Malvern where faster broadband is already available, uptake is lower than the national average.
“I would urge people to register an interest with their internet provider to make sure that the message gets through to BT that the demand is there,” she said. “Where it is not commercially viable to upgrade, the county council needs to be aware of the interest.”
Ian Binks, BT’s West Midlands regional manager, confirmed work to enable the outstanding cabinets was progressing. “Faster fibre broadband is now widely available in the Malvern area,” he said. “BT continues working with local authorities to make the technology available as widely as possible.”
However, Malvern Vale will not be receiving the upgrade. Residents of the rapidly-growing estate have been lobbying BT with support from Mrs Baldwin and Malvern Hills District Council.
Although it is not included in BT’s rollout plans, Mrs Baldwin still hopes a solution will be found.