High-speed broadband may never reach Fife business parks, warns Council

Published: 21 Apr 2014 09:30

Fife Council has warned that super-fast fibre broadband may never reach some of Fife’s business parks if BT doesn’t boost provision as part of its commercially funded £2.5 billion upgrade programme.

It’s calling on BT to roll out the high-speed technology across the Kingdom’s business parks as it nears the end of its staggered local upgrade programme, which will see 15,000 Fife homes and businesses benefit by 2016.

Backed in its quest by Fife Chamber of Commerce, the Council says that while some areas of Fife are set to benefit from publicly-funded improvements in the coming years, there are concerns that some business parks ineligible for public support may never be upgraded.

Depute leader of Fife Council, Cllr Lesley Laird, spokesperson for Business and Planning, has called on BT Openreach to invest in business sites.

She said: “Local business leaders and the Council are calling on Openreach to make a specific point of targeting the industrial heartlands of Fife."

The call follows concerns raised at a recent Fife Chamber of Commerce meeting which heard that a recent survey of businesses on Glenrothes industrial estates showed 80 per cent of 20 businesses responding are operating with broadband of less than 8 mb per second, some as low as 2mb per second. Over 50 per cent of these businesses said they would prefer to have access to superfast broadband.

Cllr Laird added: “Whilst we welcome the completion of the Openreach investment programme, we must not forget that there are business locations where BT has not yet ventured commercially. It is imperative that we speak up for and support these areas so they can maximise the benefits of faster broadband for business use.”

Fife Chamber chief executive, Eric Byiers said: “Superfast broadband is no longer an ‘add-on’ to business infrastructure, it is an essential requirement for many businesses. This relates to all kinds of business in all sectors, not just ‘high tech’ or digital firms. We are now seeing the provision of high speed broadband being factored in to business location decision and Fife simply can’t afford to be left behind in the level of service being provided.”

The Council has been approached by a Fife business recently asking which other business parks offer better broadband speeds as they are considering where to move the business whilst Fife Chamber is aware of a business which is considering moving out of Fife altogether because of the issue.

Jerry Alexander of Liberty Business Centres, which have been affected, said: "The Rosyth Europarc and Donibristle business parks are both effectively served via the Inverkeithing exchange.

"All three of our business centres have fibre high speed Internet but it has taken a large Investment from Liberty Business Centres to put this in place.

"The ongoing monthly cost is high but it is a service we must provide for our clients.

"Dealing with Openreach is effectively dealing with a monopoly because there is no competition for installation therefore the costs is usually over £2000 even when the infrastructure is there from a previous user.

"The cost is arbitrary and seems very excessive. The on going cost is again very high for a truly symmetrical upload and download speed.

"In other words, as Liberty wanted to provide the same down load and upload speeds to our internet hungry clients, the ongoing cost is considerable and would be very prohibitive to a single user.

"Fortunately with several businesses sharing the connection we can keep the cost down for this vital service."

A BT spokesperson added: "BT’s commercial deployment of fibre broadband in Fife will cover more than 114,000 homes and businesses and around 71,600 can access fibre services now.

"The economics of deploying fibre to business parks are subject to the same factors as for residential areas.

"If a cabinet only serves a few premises, be they business or residential, it is difficult to achieve a commercial return on that cabinet.

"Many business premises have the ability to order Ethernet connectivity, which provides resilient, dedicated connections for business.

"BT offers Ethernet availability in Anstruther, Cupar, Dunfermline, Glenrothes, Inverkeithing, Leven, Kirkcaldy and St Andrews."

Jump to first paragraph.