MORE than 33,000 Calderdale adults are estimated to have never logged on to the internet – 20 per cent of the grown-up population.
Another 5,622 Calderdale children have no access to the internet at home.
And research collected by the council shows they are missing out.
Families with internet access save up to £700 year with online shopping and being able to compare prices on the web.
Pupils with internet access at home have also been shown to achieve an average of two GCSEs higher than pals without it.
Rural areas such as Blackshaw Head have been identified as “not spots” with little or no internet connectivity.
Now the race has begun to get Calderdale connected to superfast broadband.
Calderdale Council has been awarded a share of £6.34 million Government funding to improve internet speed along with the other four West Yorkshire local authorities.
They have until September to match their share of the cash and tender for internet service providers to match the total public funds.
European funding is also being applied for.
Project leader Barry Collins, the council’s portfolio holder for economy and environment, said: “It’s a big financial commitment but there are vast gains to be had.
“We need to be clear that this is an investment that people do support.”
The average line speed in Calderdale is less than 8 megabytes per second (mbps) and superfast broadband of up to 40 mbps is starting to be rolled out by providers like BT.
Mary Farrar, regional strategy and policy officer, said the council plans to focus on ensuring everyone in Calderdale has at least 2 mbps first.
“If we are successful in getting European funding, then that will be used to provide a minimum of 24 mbps for businesses,” she said.
It is hoped faster internet will attract more businesses to the area. The work needed to improve infrastructure would also create construction jobs.
Mrs Farrar said: “We have predominantly small businesses here, around 86 per cent. They are really hamstrung by the lack of speed.
“There’s a risk if we don’t do this that we won’t attract investors.”
The cash from the Government is part of its £530 million Broadband Delivery UK scheme, which aims to give the UK has the best superfast network in Europe by 2015.
Yesterday Lancashire County Council became the first authority to benefit from the funding after announcing a £62.5 million fibre broadband project in partnership with BT.
Calderdale’s strategy is still being considered and will go before Cabinet in June. If successful, work to deliver the scheme will begin in early 2013.
The strategy is still being considered and will go before Cabinet in June and if successful, work to deliver the scheme will begin in early 2013.
Coun Collins said: “What we want to do is to try and begin a conversation with the Calderdale community about whether this is an important and worthwhile investment.”
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