MANY Malvern residents and businesses are still struggling with slow internet connections six months after a new ‘superfast’ service was expected to arrive in the town.

The delay is because BT and the Malvern Hills Conservators have not reached an agreement about upgrading broadband cabinets and equipment on the charity’s land.

While more than 15,600 properties are now benefiting from downloads of up to 80mbps with the arrival of BT’s fibre-optic service, hundreds more in West Malvern and Malvern Wells who have been promised the upgrade are still stuck with just a fraction of those speeds.

Both BT and the Conservators say progress is being made and that the upgrade will eventually happen, but the standoff is causing frustration and prompting concerns that high-tech businesses may up sticks and leave.

Entrepreneurs Emma Philpott and Adrian Burden opened the new Wyche Innovation Centre, a hub for upand- coming technology businesses, in January.

They now have 15 cutting edge firms at the site and Mrs Philpott said the project was almost “completely reliant” on the promise of superfast broadband.

“We were told it would be earlier this year, then it was the end of June and just this week we’ve been told September,”

she said.

“We have promised it to all our clients and it is really starting to impact our business and all our customers in the innovation centre. It needs to be sorted out as a priority.

“We are doing everything we can to help innovative companies and the economics of the area but long-term it is just not sustainable.”

West Malvern composer and businessman Paul Farrer currently has to make do with a connection of less than one mbps.

“We were told we would be getting the upgrade by Christmas but it has got later and later and now it seems to have all ground to a halt,” he said. “There is a huge disparity between those who have got it and those who have not and it is causing a lot of very frustrated people.

“Everyone is absolutely fed up with it. We are not blaming anyone but it seems like everyone should be able to get together and fix this hold-up.”

Malvern Hills District Council and MP Harriett Baldwin have been working with the two parties to try and get the situation resolved.

A spokesman for the council said: “We are confident that once an agreement has been reached all the cabinets on the rollout programme will be upgraded as BT has suggested.”

Rob Havard, acting director of Malvern Hills Conservators, said the organisation was waiting for BT to agree to paying a “deed of grant” to place the equipment on its land – something asked of any utility company.

“Long-term we have to deal with people digging up our land and working on it and there is a cost associated with that,” he said.

“But we have met with their engineers and everything was left in their court.

“Our policy is never to hold up utilities in Malvern.”

BT spokesman Emma Tennant said: “Careful consideration is given to the siting of our super-fast fibre broadband cabinets and other equipment, which are required to connect the benefiting customers to the new network.

“We are working hard with Malvern Hills Conservators to ensure the most appropriate locations are found before installing any additional equipment.”

Mrs Baldwin said: “There are increasing numbers of people who work in the shadow of the Malvern Hills in media and technology business.

“I am sure the Conservators, as an elected body, will be able to reflect the popular support there is for fast broadband.”