Downton star backs rural broadband campaign.

29 October 2013

Downton Abbey star Hugh Bonneville is supporting Can't Get Online Week from 30 October to 6 November.

The week-long roadshow, sponsored by the CLA, will tour rural communities across England to highlight the difficulties they face in getting online.

Hugh, who plays the Earl of Grantham in ITV1's popular period drama Downton Abbey, lives 40 miles south of London in a village with a "pretty pathetic" broadband connection and wants infrastructure companies to give the countryside a chance. He said: "I yearn for a connection that just stays on, never mind one that goes at the speed of light. I'd love to run aspects of my work from home; I'd love to sign up for services that stream content but the connection's just too unreliable. Some days I can't even send an email and there doesn't seem to be much I can do about it.

"The BT Infinity advertisements drive me nuts. When I applied I was told there aren't enough people in my area to merit the local exchange being upgraded but that if sufficient support was drummed up, it might get the opportunity to go in a ballot and possibly be considered for improvement. 

"Ironically, the best broadband connection I've experienced was a lot further than 40 miles from London - it was in Liberia."

The CLA is lobbying to ensure that every rural business and household can access a broadband connection of at least five megabits per second (Mbps).

CLA President William Worsley, whose ancestor Frances married the real-life Lord Grantham in the 18th Century, said: "One fifth of rural England still does not have adequate capacity broadband, and in today's world that is just not acceptable.

"The Government wants us to fill in tax returns online because it's more cost-effective and schools expect children to do homework online. These are only possible if homes and businesses have a good broadband connection.

"Internet service providers must concentrate on bringing broadband not-spots up to speed rather than making the already fast even faster."

Can't Get Online Week is being run by IT and social media expert John Popham who will demonstrate why the internet is as vital to the economic and social lives of rural people as of their urban counterparts.

John will carry a petition with him for people with broadband problems to sign. Alternatively, there is an e-petition for those who can get online to support the campaign: www.cla.org.uk/policy_work/petitions/

Find out if the tour is visiting a rural community near you.