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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 May, 2003, 15:29 GMT 16:29 UK
'Our firms are crying out for broadband'
Paul Froggett arriving to work by bike
Working in a rural location has distinct advantages
The Countryside Agency says a "digital divide" is restricting businesses in rural areas, where just seven per cent have access to affordable broadband services.

Two companies tell BBC News Online that unless they can get a faster computer connection, they face having to relocate.

Paul Froggett runs a software company, ranked in the top 40 fastest-growing firms in the UK.

When he started his own business - The Complete Product - he decided to locate it within cycling distance of his Wiltshire home.

The general perception is that rural businesses consist of pottery makers and basket weavers
Paul Froggett

He had already spent years commuting, including at one point a 90-mile daily journey to High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire.

After initially running the business from a disused granary store, then a converted barn, he and his 24 staff now operate from purpose-built premises on an old farm site in Sherston.

'Commercial reality'

But while the location is idyllic, the downside of having slow computer access has been less attractive, he said.

"The general perception is that rural businesses consist of pottery makers and basket weavers," said Mr Froggett.

"But we are a serious IT hi-tech company and we are serving customers all over the world."

Over the last two years the company has been campaigning to have broadband installed in the local telephone exchange.

Worker at Wentworth Wooden Jigsaw Co
Broadband would allow images to be sent and downloaded at speed

"We still have no date," Mr Froggett told BBC News Online.

"We're told the commercial reality is that BT can only install broadband where it is cost effective.

"We could get better access with a satellite link, but that costs 10 times as much and goes at half the speed - plus it would not benefit anyone else in the community."

Mr Froggett said a lack of broadband facility meant added costs and potentially delayed the delivery of customer information.

"We want to expand but we do not want to work in cities, it should be possible," he said.

Rural penalty

On the same site in Sherston, the Wentworth Wooden Jigsaw Company run by Richard Bridge has been in existence for more than six years.

But without a fast computer facility, the company's future in its pretty rural location is threatened, together with the jobs of its 18 staff.

The companies providing fast computer access say it costs a lot of money to convert telephone exchanges and there must be enough demand to make this viable.

Richard Bridge, Wentworth Wooden Jigsaw Company
The company may have to relocate, says Richard Bridge

But Mr Bridge said: "We seem to be penalised for working in the country, yet we need to get broadband or move."

The company makes wooden jigsaws to send all over the world, and increasingly needs to download pictures and artwork to use in creating puzzles.

"We need a way of getting quality images fast. At the moment we use an ISDN line which is very costly.

"There is a massive amount of detail, but with a broadband link we could do things like this within seconds."

Like Mr Froggett, Mr Bridge's company has campaigned to have broadband installed locally over the last two years, but to no avail.

"If I had to move, some three-quarters of my staff would have to disappear and I would have to start again, and that would be very sad," he said.




SEE ALSO:
Digital divide 'hits rural business'
07 May 03  |  Technology
BT urges action on rural broadband
06 May 03  |  Technology
BT backs broadband campaigners
16 Apr 03  |  Technology
Broadband access leaps ahead
19 Mar 03  |  Technology


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