RURAL residents in Worcestershire found new ways to ease the seasonal stress thanks to their new faster broadband.

Rural homes and businesses in Worcestershire went 'live' with faster broadband connections back in the summer following a unique £700,000 rural broadband pathfinder scheme - the first of its kind in the UK.

In the successful pathfinder project, three rural communities (Little Witley, the North-West Malvern Consortium and the Redditch Travel Arc Consortium) were successful in securing the additional funding that was identified by the county council from Green Infrastructure Funding (£400,000) and Choose How You Move Redditch sustainable transport (£300,000) funding to bring faster speeds.

Residents from those areas have been telling the county council how faster speeds mean they can now do things online which has made this busy and often stressful time much easier.

Faster broadband also means that people living rurally can stay in touch with friends and relatives over the holidays. It's now easy to make a computer style phone call with packages like Skype, Facetime or Google which often enable users to have a video link as well as voice.

Councillor John Campion, cabinet member with responsibility for transformation and commissioning who has been involved at all stages of the rural scheme, is citing the council's creative pathfinder approach to rural broadband, in partnership with parish councils, as an example of the council's commitment to stimulating business growth and inward investment as well as helping communities to 'Act Local' (often referred to as localism).

Coun Campion, said: "The speed of internet connections is a critical part of success in today's ever-faster and more competitive market place.

"It is fantastic to see the real difference that we knew this would make to local people's lives and for our local businesses."