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Members of Chew Valley Chamber of Commerce have welcomed fresh investment in broadband but there is concern they may miss out on a special voucher scheme which would benefit small businesses and fresh evidence that some companies are moving away because of slow speeds.

Bath and North East Somerset Council has announced it is investing a further £350k to improve broadband speeds, some of which will help rural areas. News has also emerged that a scheme currently running in Bristol is to be extended five miles into Bath and North East Somerset. This could provide funding to help cover the costs of high speed broadband.

President Rod Podger says the extra investment is good news: “This is a step in the right direction, because it will mean that more of our businesses will hopefully be able to access much needed higher broadband speeds. It remains to be seen how widespread the benefits will reach.”

However, the Chamber is anxious that the voucher scheme may not bring the benefits it promises: “One of the main criteria for eligibility for the vouchers is the ability to achieve 30Mbps line speed. We are fearful that this will mean we are actually excluded because our exchanges fall below that standard. I have written to the Chairman of the Local Enterprise Partnership, the Leader of B&NES Council and our MP, Jacob Rees-Mogg, asking that the line speed requirement is adjusted so that our members can access the scheme and further boost their businesses,” added Mr Podger.

Meanwhile there is new evidence that some companies have given up waiting for fast broadband.

Richard Sheppard, Managing Director of Soltech IT Ltd, says they are moving from Chew Stoke to Chelwood: “Our current broadband is un-usable and our new premises are fitted with fibre. Over the past 12 months the business has been forced to move away from providing services to the public as we simply didn’t have broadband capable of running multiple computers at once. The local community has lost a service that was very much in demand and we have lost an income of several thousand pounds each month.”

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