In a previous blog in February 2015 I spoke about the Government’s initiative for ‘super-connected’ cities and the pledge to achieve a ‘transformation in broadband access’. Recent developments have shown that the Government continue to place access to broadband high on their agenda, but how does that benefit park businesses, especially those in rural areas for whom access to broadband can be a challenge?
Internet and parks
Whether you operate a residential park or a holiday park, access to fast and reliable internet is likely to be an important part of your business for two reasons:
- To enable you to manage your business. A presence on the web (be that via a website or social media) is considered a fundamental part of any business. This is no different for park businesses, especially holiday parks which will often use their webpage to provide online booking facilities, (to include accepting payments online), and to advertise holiday homes for sale. In addition access to the internet enables email communication with customers and suppliers alike.
- To offer internet access to customers. Being connected is considered essential for the majority of park customers (particularly those attending holiday parks), most of whom have more than one digital device on which they may want to access the internet (phone, IPad, laptop etc). If a customer on park is not able to read their emails/watch their favourite programme on catch up/send out tweets/play the latest trending game [delete as appropriate!] due to slow access speeds it can often lead to complaints for the park. There is even a website where customers can check whether or not a park offers wi-fi internet access!
Charging for access to the internet is also a common issue and one which is different for each park. It may be that on a holiday park, a system is operated where customers can purchase access to the internet on a daily basis, or access may be free in communal areas. On a residential park it may be that the cost of connecting homes to super fast broadband are recovered from the residents in a pitch fee (if the necessary consultation took place).
What does the law say about the internet?
In May 2016 the Digital Economy Bill was introduced during the Queens Speech. The purpose of the Bill is said to be “to enable access to fast digital communication services for citizens and business…”, words which are likely to be welcomed by those parks located in rural areas who find access to broadband and download speeds problematic, which can in turn impact on customer enjoyment and business efficiency.
The Bill contains a number of measures which seek to achieve a ‘broadband universal service’ for the United Kingdom. In other words, the Bill seeks to create a legal right for people and businesses to request access to an affordable broadband connection with set minimum download speeds. It is intended that the minimum download speed will be set out in supporting regulations at an introductory rate of 10 megabytes per second, with the intention that this figure will increase over time as internet speeds improve.
The Government proposes that by the end of 2017 at least 95% of premises in the UK will have access to broadband at speeds of at least 24 megabytes per second. But what about the missing 5% which will inevitably include rural areas in which parks are located?
What can you do if your park’s access to broadband is poor?
You could take matters into your own hands as the residents of Yorkshire village Clapham-cum-Newby did this year when a team of volunteers laid ducts across the countryside to connect the community to high speed fibre broadband. Such community driven schemes are common now and financial support may be available for parks via the BT Community Fibre Partnership Scheme (or other similar schemes) enabling those communities in the 5% to seek access to grant funding to put towards the costs of broadband infrastructure.
If the broadband service at your park is running at less than 2 megabytes per second you may be able to access the Government satellite internet scheme which aims to connect businesses with a poor connection to high speed internet via satellite.
The Digital Economy Bill is an important step forward in securing a legal right to access to the internet at a certain minimum speed and parks should continue to ‘watch this space’ in an ever increasing digital age.