A BROADBAND campaigner for rural parts of Somerset and Devon has said rural businesses in both counties are facing "discrimination" due to differing broadband speeds.

Graham Long, chairman of B4RDS (Broadband for Rural Devon & Somerset), said he knew of a number of businesses moving from rural communities into towns where the broadband speeds were better.

He said rural areas here were facing a "digital rural apartheid" and that more businesses would leave the rural areas and homeowners would face problems trying to sell their properties if there were any more delays in the supply of superfast broadband.

He's urging people to have their say in a consultation on the next stage of broadband.

Connecting Devon and Somerset was set up to deliver broadband across the region.

Phase one of the project, which plans to provide 90 per cent of homes with superfast broadband by the end of 2016 is already well underway But the agreement to supply phase two of the scheme, which aims for 95 per cent coverage, is yet to be finalised.

Devon and Somerset are the only two counties across the country without a phase two yet in place.

Mr Long, a parish councillor in Upottery said: "Because Connecting Devon and Somerset failed to put phase two contracts in place by June 30 last year, the EU Competition Commissioner is now requiring the two counties to be broken into a patchwork of seven contract areas which may use a hotch potch of different technologies.

"It would also require the suppliers to make their infrastructure available for all companies to use which could mean the bigger companies such as BT decide not to bid.

"Data from Ofcom has shown that nine per cent of rural areas in the UK are unable to even access speeds of 2MB, we're facing discrimination and we're seeing businesses move away because they can't run a business on these speeds.

"It is a digital rural apartheid and it is not right that people here should be missing out on this technology because of where they live."

A spokesperson for Somerset County Council, said: “The Connecting Devon and Somerset Programme has successfully made superfast broadband available to over a quarter of a million premises in towns villages and rural areas across Devon and Somerset.

"This puts us on track to reach around 90 per cent coverage by the end of 2016. And take up is good too.

"In those communities where superfast broadband has been available for over two years, this is now close to 50 per cent.

“All of this is fantastic news for the businesses and residents that have benefitted to date, with many areas now able to access fibre broadband speeds far in excess of those found in many cities, but we do appreciate there is more work to do.

“Our phase 2 programme is already live on Dartmoor and Exmoor and arrangements to find a delivery partner for the remainder of the area are in progress.

"At a recent industry event, attended by more than 50 delegates from over 30 telecoms companies there was a good deal of interest from the industry for phase 2 of the contract.”

Graham is encouraging residents in Somerset to have their say on a consultation from the minister of the department of culture, media and sports Ed Vaizey.

Comments on the "Next Stage of the UK's Digital Revolution" are being taken until January 19.

To have your say and to find out more, visit www.gov.uk/government/news/government-seeks-ideas-from-public-and-industry-for-the-next-stage-in-uks-digital-revolution or email digitalstrategy@culture.gov.uk