MANY Malvern businesses and householders are still struggling with slow internet connections six months after a new superfast service was due to arrive in the town.
The delay is because BT and the Malvern Hills Conservators have not reached an agreement about upgrading broadband cabinets and equipment on the charity’s land.
While more than 15,600 properties are now benefiting from downloads of up to 80mbps thanks to the arrival of BT’s fibre-optic service, hundreds more homes in West Malvern and Malvern Wells are still stuck with just a fraction of those speeds.
Both BT and the Conservators say progress is being made and that the upgrade will eventually happen, but the stand-off is causing frustration and prompting concerns that high-tech businesses may up sticks and leave the area.
Entrepreneurs Emma Philpott and Adrian Burden opened the new Wyche Innovation Centre, a hub for up and coming technology businesses, in January.
They now have 15 cutting-edge firms at the site and Mrs Philpott said the project was almost completely reliant on the promise of superfast broadband.
West Malvern composer and businessman Paul Farrer currently has to make do with a connection of less than one mbps.
“Everyone is absolutely fed up with it. We are not blaming anyone, but it seems like everyone should be able to get together and fix this hold up,” he said.
A spokesman for the council said it would be arranging a meeting and that both sides had indicated a willingness to find a solution.
Rob Havard, the acting director of the Malvern Hills Conservators, said the organisation was all in favour of the upgrade and was waiting for BT to agree to paying a deed of grant to place the equipment on its land – something which is asked of any utility company.
“Long-term we have to deal with people digging up our land and working on it and there is a cost associated with that,” he said.
“But we have met with their engineers and everything was left in their court. There is no hesitation whatsoever from the Conservators.
“Our policy is never to hold up utilities in Malvern and we would certainly not want to be an obstacle to this.”
BT spokesman Emma Ten-nant reassured residents that both Malvern Wells and West Malvern were still earmarked for the upgrades.
“Careful consideration is given to the siting of our super-fast fibre broadband cabinets and other equipment, which are required to connect the benefiting customers to the new network,” she said.
“We are working hard with Malvern Hills Conservators to ensure that the most appropriate locations are found before installing any additional equipment.”