Broadband may be lifeline for Cornwall country pub

A Cornish hotel owner hopes fibre-based broadband will put his pub on the world tourism map.

A Cornish hotel owner hopes fibre-based broadband will put his pub on the world tourism map.

Michael Owen, who owns the Grade II-listed Britannia Hotel in Chacewater, a small village between Redruth and Truro in Cornwall, has been connected to the county's new £132m fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) network. He says he is delighted with the improvement in the service..

Owen has been in the pub business a long time. With village pubs closing at a rate of 25 a week for several years, he was prompted to leave. But he went back to it. "It's in my heart," he says.

He is now looking at every opportunity to attract customers, and was one of the first to sign up when BT came to town.

The new connection gives close to 40Mbps download and 10Mbps upload speeds, allowing him to offer a free Wi-Fi service to pub customers - something that is encouraging them to spend longer at the Britannia.

One neighbour is a publisher who deals with New York a lot, uploading proofs and checking illustrations, he says. Owen also has YouTube on "permanently", and when he clicks on BBC's iPlayer to view Life on Earth, the picture quality "doesn't even blink", he says.

"I'm not in BT's pocket, I demand the service I pay for," Owen, a plain-speaking man whose email address suggests a Liverpudlian origin.

The only blip so far has been getting him connected. Owen says when the flyer came through the door to announce the availability of high speed broadband he was on the phone instantly. But the person who took the call didn't know the service was up and running.

It took 25 minutes of "going round the houses" before he phoned the Cornwall agency responsible for the broadband project. They gave him a different BT number, and from then it was plain sailing, he says.

"Apart from that first incident, which I put down to a lack of training, since then I can't really fault BT's service," he said.

BT was the sole bidder for the contract, which it is supporting with £78.5m of its own money. The balance of £53.5m is coming from ERDF Convergence. BT says the roll-out depends on demand, so the full budget may not be spent.

A BT statement said it had already installed 150km of fibre to link St Agnes, St Day, Portreath, Devoran, Leedstown, Stenalees and Par, giving potentially 14,000 customers access to the "up to" 40Mbps FTTC service. So far 50 have signed up, it said.

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