Sleepy English Seaside Resort Catapulted into Internet Fast Lane


It has been dubbed the town that time forgot, and has been the butt of music-hall jokes for decades, but Frinton-on-Sea (”Dover for the continent, Frinton for the incontinent”), the epitome of the genteel English seaside resort, has been selected as one of 41 towns across the U.K. to receive superfast broadband access.     

Superfast broadband in Frinton-on-Sea? This is the Victorian resort famed for not embracing the future. It took 101 years before the first fish-and-chip shop was allowed to open.

The town only got its first pub in 2000, and that in the face of staunch opposition. In the reported words of one activist the decision to open the Lock and Barrel pub marked “the worst day in Frinton since the Luftwaffe beat up the town in 1944″.

It is a sleepy town on England’s east coast, popular with retirees. According to the U.K. Office for National Statistics, 46% of the population of 4,168, are pensioners. The top story in the local community newsletter reports that the Philatelic Society members “had a restful Christmas break after a well-attended and busy auction on the December 13″.

Ian Smith, who runs an estate agency and property management company on Frinton’s main street, was surprised that the town had been chosen: “This is really a retirement town. Hand on heart; I can say that no one has ever asked me what broadband speed is in the town. I don’t even know myself.”

The largest employer is the local school

Malcolm Boucher, secretary of the Frinton Golf Club (founded, 1895, “No denim clothing, tracksuits or shell suits should be worn either on the courses or in the clubhouse”), was indignant at the suggestion that Frinton was living in the past: “There are lots of small businesses here who would benefit from this. We use the internet, as do other organizations, like the tennis club. And a lot of our members have email. We have one lady member who is over 100 and she uses email.”

Whatever broadband speed the town currently has, from 2012, Mr. Boucher and the other 5,000 residents, some half of whom are reported to be of retirement age, will be able to get speeds of up to 40Mb/s.

When asked why Frinton, a spokesman for BT, the U.K. provider, said in an email: “The key factors considered were economics, predicted take-up of fibre service (linked to communications provider interest), predicted performance of the FTTC technology, and indicative levels of support and interest from local and devolved government. We have worked very closely with industry and with local authorities to choose these sites.”

Although not that closely. Councillor Robert Bucke, was surprised: “Oh, that’s news to me, and I am the mayor.”

He was optimistic that the super-fast broadband would draw people to the town: “Most of the businesses here are small, employing fewer than 20 people.” The largest employer in the area, he said, was the local school.

Some 40 other towns were also announced, serving around 300,000 businesses and consumers across the U.K. Super-fast broadband, using fibre-to-street cabinets, offers much faster download speeds of up to 40Mb/s, potentially rising to 60Mb/s, and upstream speeds of 10Mb/s, which could rise to 15Mb/s in the future. BT is also trialling fibre-to-the-premises broadband services, at download speeds of up to 100Mb/s.

By Ben Rooney, Wall Street Journal (January 12, 2011,)