For the Augustinian cannons who lived at Michelham Priory, the Cuckmere River was their fastest link to the outside world. High speed internet will mean the Priory, now one of the most popular historic destinations in Wealden is just milliseconds away from all the internet offers. And so are the local residents and businesses in Upper Dicker.
"TheMichelham monks may have come to this part of Wealden for the isolation," said Cllr Roy Galley, Wealden Cabinet member for Planning and Development. "Unfortunately for today's residents of Upper Dicker - and too many other rural households within Wealden - the vagaries of the broadband connection makes downloading internet files of any size a very slow process. Downloading video and music files can be almost impossible. In 21st century terms, local residents have been almost as isolated as the 13th century monks."
Thanks to a scheme initiated by Wealden's Local Strategic Partnership the local community is now able to enjoy high speed broadband.
For small businesses located in farm buildings across the area, this means they can access large files quickly and meet the expectations clients and partners have of them. Meanwhile for local school children, it will help with their studies and social life, and families will be able to stream internet TV and films. Until now, if they have been able to receive broadband at all, many local residents have had connection speeds among the slowest in the country (less than 1 Mbps), but can now leapfrog the rural average to much faster speeds.
"Good communications is essential for us so we can let everyone know about the great events that take place at the Priory throughout the year," said Ruth Sutton, Marketing Officer at Sussex Past. "Improved broadband will enable us to regularly update our new website, www.sussexpast.co.uk (external link) which we are launching on 1 March."
The new Call Flow Solutions connection has increased the internet speeds of existing telephone lines through a booster system housed in a new street cabinet. It can benefit any premises with a standard telephone connection through the street cabinet at the Coldharbour Lane-A22 junction.
"After I moved to Upper Dicker in 2004, it became apparent that there was no possibility of getting Broadband because of the physical distance from the Hailsham exchange," said Chris Wollaston, Upper Dicker broadband campaigner. "I've battled since 2004 for the 'digitally disenfranchised' at the Michelham Priory end of the village to be Broadband connected and after many false dawns, am delighted to be connected at last. So well done Call Flow Solutions and Wealden District Council and all who took part in this eight year saga!"
Wealden District Council has secured £48,000 of grant support from the South East England Development Agency and co-ordinated and managed the project with St. Bede's School. The money was made available through the Rural Development Programme for England's Rural Broadband fund for broadband improvements in the South East. The Rural Development Programme for England is partly funded by the European Union , through the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, and partly by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The programme is now being delivered by Defra.
"Broadband connection speeds vary widely across Wealden, one of the most rural districts in the South East. Small enterprises are the backbone of our economy and their growth is being severely restrained by erratic internet connections," said Councillor Galley. "Wealden District Council and Wealden's Local Strategic Partnership have been working with local communities and the private sector to try to bring improvements to the worse hit areas. We have been looking to provide advice and find grant support where possible to bring the necessary infrastructure improvements. I am very pleased with the success that has been achieved at Upper Dicker."
"This is a wonderful result, a real example of where a community and partners can come together to really make a difference," said Guy Cleverley, Director of Digital Resources, St Bede's School. "The solution from Call Flow is elegant and it has been a pleasure and a great experience for us; providing our support and backing to such a worthwhile community project."
The arrival of fast broadband "means an awful lot for Upper Dicker," said Arlington Parish Cllr Doreen Goodchild, "we have on of the largest businesses in Wealden, in St. Bede's School, and a lot of people working from home."