Rural spots will be the first to benefit from the extended high speed network
Hampshire's rural spots will be the first to see superfast broadband coverage in a county-wide scheme to extend a high speed network to more than 57,000 businesses and households.
Homes in Odiham, North Warnborough, South Warnborough and Upton Grey will be among the first of 6,000 properties under phase one of the multi-million pound scheme.
Traders and business groups have welcomed the news even if it means urbanised towns such as Aldershot, Farnborough, Fleet and Yateley have to wait.
Kevin Whibley is a Fleet town centre trader and chairman of the Fleet Business Partnership.
He relies on the internet for his photography business Captured Moment in Fleet Road. Having worked as a photographer since 1989, he opened his first high street studio in 1995 moving to his current location in 2000.
Mr Whibley said: “From personal experience in Fleet, we seem to have excellent coverage from both BT and Virgin Media, at least in and around the town centre.
“Fast broadband is essential now for communication so I welcome it where ever it may be.”
The programme will see at least 90% of all Hampshire premises having access to broadband capable of speeds of at least 24Mbps by 2015.
This will be in line with the national framework, agreed by the department for culture, media and sport.
Country Land and Business Association (CLA) South East supports landowners and rural businesses in Hampshire, Surrey and Berkshire.
A spokesman for CLA South East said: “Broadband is something that the CLA has been campaigning on for over 10 years especially for the rural areas.
“Of course built up areas need superfast broadband.
“But the CLA is keen to highlight that many business start-ups evolve in rural areas initially and this is where investment in broadband is essential to boost the economy."
Chris Barnes has lived in Yateley town centre with his family for more than 20 years and runs architectural company Yateley Drawing Service from his home.
He felt that towns with internet-dependent businesses would benefit from the upgrade more than the identified rural areas.
Mr Barnes said: “Business tend to use broadband more, so it would be more logical to roll out the scheme to town centre and business park areas first.
“If the areas identified currently have the worst coverage, then it is a good decision. If the roll out logistics save money by connecting these areas first, then again a good idea.”
Hampshire County Council has unveiled a map showing the first homes that will be able to sign up for superfast services next January. The authority, together with district and borough partners, has already invested £5m in the project and was awarded the same figure from Broadband Delivery UK – responsible for making high-speed broadband available in rural communities.
BT is contributing an additional £3.8m bringing the total investment to £13.8m.
Council leader Roy Perry said: “Broadband is a key part of the county’s infrastructure and is hugely important to Hampshire in economic terms for the prosperity of businesses, the quality of life for residents and the quality of learning accessible to schools and universities."