ONE of the town’s new academy schools will be set up in an area with some of the slowest internet connections in the country - despite being sponsored by a telecoms giant.
The St Leonards Academy will open in September with the merging of Filsham Valley and The Grove, with BT as one of the project’s sponsors alongside The University of Brighton and East Sussex County Council.
But it has emerged the school’s Edinburgh Road site is in the middle of a so-called broadband slowspot, with speeds of around two megabytes per second or less.
Now concerns have been raised over the way in which the slow speeds will impact on the academy sponsors’ educational vision, in which information technology is meant to play a pivotal role.
In the sponsors’ joint mission statement, they said: “BT can see Hastings and St Leonards is a community with great potential to emerge as a hub of enterprise and community growth. BT also feels it is important to give back to the people and communities that have helped make it a successful company.”
Last year Jemery Hunt, Secretary of State for Media, said two megabytes a second was “not enough” and Britain would be left behind without super-fast broadband access across the country.
Now Amber Rudd MP, a long-time cheerleader of the academy project, has expressed her concern. She said: “It is worrying and disappointing but we do have BT as a sponsor and hopefully it will be able to give us some advice over what we can do about it. I would like to work closely with BT to try and find a solution.”
Around one in 10 homes in the UK currently falls into the slowspot areas, usually because of issues around wiring or distance from telephone exchanges.
A BT spokesman said the company was working on plans to help people improve their wiring as well as on longer-tem projects. He said: “We understand the frustrations of anyone who cannot use the internet as they would wish due to speed of their connection.
“ BT is committed to bringing faster internet to all, and continues to work on solutions for the small number of customers impacted by this.
“We have been engaging with public sector organisations across the region, to explore ways of bringing super-fast, fibre-based broadband to locations where the economics make things more difficult. This is a massive undertaking and we are announcing new areas to receive super-fast broadband on a regular basis.”