‘Fix broadband blackspots in South Yorkshire’ plea

Alex Hodgson, business development manager at Sheffield telecoms company One2Call
Alex Hodgson, business development manager at Sheffield telecoms company One2Call
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South Yorkshire companies are battling broadband blackspots and waiting months for connections, a city telecoms boss has claimed.

Business parks in Doncaster, Rotherham, Attercliffe and Sheffield city centre have no access to superfast internet, forcing firms to spend thousands on their own ‘leased’ line.

Openreach engineer at work

Openreach engineer at work

Alex Hodgson, of One2Call, spoke out after a report by 121 MPs condemned the “dire” connection speeds suffered by millions, especially in the countryside.

They called for Openreach, BT’s infrastructure arm, to be split off, to end the ‘monopoly’ and shake up the industry.

But Mr Hodgson said it wasn’t just a rural problem. Three firms on Hayfield Lane Business Park near Doncaster Airport had clubbed together to pay £5,000 for the installation of their own fibre optic line - plus £500-a-month rental - due to a lack of cabling in the area.

Hellaby Industrial Estate in Rotherham was in a superfast blackspot - based on enquiries from frustrated businesses there, he added.

Attercliffe, Sheffield’s industrial heartland, and the city centre were also in the slow lane after the shutdown of the £150m taxpayer-funded Digital Region network.

BT signed a £22m deal with South Yorkshire councils for a replacement network in September 2014. But funding rules prevent it from covering those areas.

Mr Hodgson said: “In South Yorkshire, there are business parks where speeds are unacceptable for modern firms. MPs have pointed the finger at BT as underperforming and that’s our experience too. Communication is poor and there’s a lack of accountability.

“I think it should be broken up - anything that injects new thinking, pace, energy or ideas.”

Nigel Little, MD of games company Distinctive Developments, of East Parade next to Sheffield Cathedral, said they had been waiting for a leased line since April.

The 30-strong company sells games online and an internet connection was “business critical.”

He added: “It’s appalling. We’ve written to the council, MP and Creative Sheffield but we still have no date.

“We love being the city centre, but we have considered moving - it’s ridiculous that our staff have a faster connection at home.”

BT said: “An announcement will be made in the next few weeks about extended coverage at business parks across South Yorkshire.

“Superfast South Yorkshire is keen to ensure that the roll-out brings economic benefits for South Yorkshire and the team have worked hard to secure additional funding to ensure that as many business parks as possible will benefit.

“Already, more than 13,000 premises can benefit from the programme. This is in addition to the 451,000 homes and businesses across South Yorkshire able to access fibre broadband thanks to BT’s commercial roll-out.”