“Herefordshire’s economic and social future is dependent on widespread access to fast internet services.”  That will be the message given to delegates at the Herefordshire Broadband Summit on Friday, 6 August.

The summit has been organised by Hereford’s new MP Jesse Norman, a member of Parliament’s influential Treasury Select Committee.  It will feature speakers from all the major telecom providers as well as some of the smaller, more innovative players in the field.  The keynote address will be delivered by Ed Vaizey, the new Minister for Digital Communication.

“I’m delighted that Ed Vaizey is coming to Herefordshire to see the problem for himself, and to hear first-hand what a difference proper broadband could make,” said Jesse Norman.  “We have pulled together this summit to help the county push for better coverage and to understand what we ourselves can do to make better broadband happen.”

Jesse is no stranger to using community action to solve problems.  In 2009, in the face of a struggling independent retail sector, he harnessed local feeling to produce a guide to small shops in Herefordshire – helping thousands to buy local.  His 2006 book, Compassionate Conservatism, began much of the thinking behind the coalition Governments “Big society” plans.

The goal of the summit is to bring together suppliers and innovators with community leaders and user groups to forge a united approach to infrastructure improvement.

Speakers include Tony Killeen founder of Herefordshire firm allpay that is working with the Hereford Diocese (C of E) to mount wireless internet nodes on church buildings in villages.  He will stress that there are still many communities in Herefordshire with no Broadband connection at all and anger is growing that rural areas are being left behind.

In another session, James Saunby of GreySky Consulting, who is working in rural Northumberland to deliver broadband in remote upland areas will warn; “The delivery of broadband services is critical to the survival of rural communities.  We are already seeing families seriously consider moving away from rural areas to areas with better broadband access.”

Also delegates will hear from managing director of Rutland Telecom, David Lewis, who believes that their example proves that even small, remote communities can get high speed access if they’re prepared to take the lead; “The Rutland Telecom service for the village of Lyddington has shown that a community can take action to get the broadband service they want.”

The conference will also hear from BT’s managing director of next generation access, Bill Murphy and Virgin Media’s Matt Rogerson.