HOMES and businesses in parts of Huntingdonshire are set to benefit from faster broadband speeds. Rural villages have long complained of speeds as low as 1mb being a hindrance, especially to running a business. However, BT announced last week that it is to upgrade 17 exchanges in the East of England including Huntingdon, St Ives, St Neots and Yaxley between autumn 2010 and summer 2011. The company said 43,000 homes and businesses in Cambridgeshire will benefit from the upgrade. John Bridge, chief executive of Cambridgeshire Chamber of Commerce, welcomed the upgrade but was concerned that many businesses would still not benefit from the technology. He said: "It is absolutely essential when we are trying to attract international businesses that we have the right facility to communicate properly. "But we've got to get it as quickly as we can. And we must also not forget that there are other areas that will not be getting faster speeds. It is crucial that they do." Malcolm Lyons, chairman of Huntingdonshire and Wisbech Federation of Small Businesses, added: "Some 90 per cent of businesses in the area are small businesses so it's crucial in this area that we get faster broadband." BT accepts some locations will not receive the services due to technical and commercial reasons but said it is "actively looking at alternative solutions". The upgrades are part of BT's \u00A31.5million investment in super-fast broad band across the UK - a scheme which could offer download speeds of up to 40mb, potentially rising to 60mb. Peter McCarthy-Ward, BT's East of England regional director, said: "BT would also like to roll-out the fibre networks to parts of the region where the economics are more challenging and where some public funding will be required. We are, of course, very open to holding discussions with public sector organisations, on how this could be achieved.