BROKEN promises have dealt villagers another blow in their battle to secure high-speed broadband connections for rural communities.
Homeowners in Darlington’s western villages have been told they face an indefinite wait to join a reliable internet network after funding has been pulled to upgrade sluggish coverage.
Residents in Summerhouse, Redworth and Killerby were left frustrated by a Darlington Borough Council decision to remove £50,000 earmarked to boost broadband connectivity with the sum to be matched by Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK).
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Year-long negotiations to between the council and BT’s Openreach division broke down after BT’s original quote of £100,000 to connect the villages was trebled to £300,000 in August 2016.
However, frustrated residents were only told that Darlington Borough Council had backed out of contributing to the superfast broadband rollout during a meeting in Summerhouse last month.
Yvonne Stonehouse, Summerhouse Parish Council chair, said: “People are really upset about it because a lot of people have businesses and it was a promise that’s been broken.
“People have got youngsters who need to do homework, people are doing university degrees – they’re having to go into town to access the internet and it’s unacceptable.
“People are going to move out of the villages because they can’t work like that and children can’t do homework online. We’re just six miles out of Darlington and we can’t get any internet. You can see people trying to get signal on their phones on the green outside.”
BT are expected to finalise a mapping exercise in June to reveal which communities will be included in the next phased rollout.
In a letter seen by The Northern Echo to Phil Wilson, Sedgefield MP, from Darlington Borough Council’s director of economic growth, Ian Williams, he confirmed budget cuts have led to the delay.
Mr Williams said: “As for the original £50,000 council contribution originally earmarked in 2014, austerity and significant budget cuts has meant that the council contribution is no longer available.
“But by utilising the TVCA devolution monies significantly more coverage can be achieved that was possible by just utilising scarce council resource.”