HASTINGS will be fast-tracked into the 21st Century after BT announced it was bringing high-speed internet to the town.
The telecomms giant announced this week that it is rolling out the service to 61,000 homes here and in Eastbourne and hopes to complete the work next year.
The connection uses state-of-the-art fibreoptic cables and local computer users will potentially be able to enjoy download speeds of up to 100 megabytes a second – 50 times quicker than the slow speeds recorded in some areas of St Leonards.
The superfast broadband makes it easier for people in the same house to be online at the same time, and at the fastest speeds it will take two seconds to download a song, 30 seconds for an album and 10 minutes for a full length high definition film.
This week’s announcement comes after intensive lobbying from local business groups and East Sussex County Council (ESCC) which sees broadband as the fourth utility service.
ESCC leader Cllr Peter Jones said: “This is brilliant news for Hastings.
“This will help to boost the economy and shows what can be achieved when all the partners work together for our residents and businesses.
“We have set aside £2 million from our own capital programme to support the rollout of high-speed broadband and we’ll ensure that this issue remains a top priority.”
His joy was echoed by Brett McLean, a St Leonards-based businessman and head of the East Sussex Federation of Small Businesses.
The FSB joined Cllr Jones at a meeting with Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Jeremy Hunt MP, and Mr McLean was thrilled their efforts had paid dividends.
He said: “It is going to be vitally important for all the business in this area and it will help everyone, but it will also open up lots of new opportunities.
“It is overdue but I am glad the Secretary of State took our concerns on board.”
He said that Hastings was in line to be the pilot scheme for the very fastest speeds which could attract multi-million pound conferences to the town.
Several local residents went on social networking site Twitter to express their delight at the news and John Weaver, BT’s regional director for the south east, agreed it was ‘great news’ for Hastings and St Leonards.
“Nobody understands better than BT that fast and reliable internet connections are vital for business and central to our daily lives,” he said.