West Berkshire has the best rural broadband, as well as the highest median download speed in the UK, according to new research by Thinkbroadband. The study, which ranks local authorities by the average broadband speed possible if everyone in the area bought the fastest available service, found that West Berkshire has 98.4% superfast broadband coverage and average mean download speeds of 355 mbps, which is exceeded only by urban areas of Bournemouth and parts of central London.

We are rated higher than the City of London, many London Boroughs and cities like York. Much of this has been achieved because of the decision by Councillors to use a local company called Gigaclear who are on track to deliver superfast broadband to the most difficult to reach premises. Unlike other areas West Berkshire’s contract sees connections being made to houses (Fibre-to-the-premises) rather than to the box in the street.

Seeing West Berkshire getting recognised for its digital connectivity is good for our local economy. It means businesses will want to base themselves here. It also works for families. In almost every household there will be those who want to download homework whilst others are shopping, working or streaming content. Good digital connectivity is also a social justice matter. Vulnerable people can benefit out of all proportion to the rest of us. Just being able to shop from home is one advantage but also having access to benefits advice or local services on-line is a life changer for many.

The news that West Berkshire is now recognised for its digital connectivity is a fantastic legacy to the late Roger Croft. As Leader of West Berkshire Council he took the brave decision to deliver the broadband contract in a different way to nearly every other Council. The roll-out is not yet complete but we are on-track to see all but a handful of houses benefit from a really visionary piece of local governance.