Sunday, 19 July 2015 19:55

Productivity plan 'short on broadband'

Written by  Ruralcity Media
Productivity plan 'short on broadband'

The government's Productivity Plan to boost rural growth falls short when it comes to broadband, say campaigners.

Called "Fixing the Foundations: Creating a more prosperous nation", the plan aims to secure rising living standards.

Business secretary Sajid Javid launched the document during a speech in Birmingham.

The government framework for raising productivity includes 15 key areas, built around two pillars: first, encouraging long term investment, and secondly, promoting a dynamic economy.

    See also: Will the rural productivity plan work?

"While cities are the driving force of the economy, it is important that all areas of the economy contribute to, and benefit from, productivity growth," it says, adding that a new '10 Point Plan' will aim to increase rural productivity.

This includes completing the government's superfast broadband programme on time and on budget, ensuring 95% of the UK has access to superfast connections by 2017.

The Country Land and Business Association welcomed recognition that specific plans were needed for productivity within the rural economy.

But it said the broadband plan didn't go far enough.

CLA policy director Christopher Price said: "This is a strong plan that recognises the rural economy's important contribution to the national economy."

He added: "The commitment to unblocking the planning system is good news for rural communities and businesses, but the plans for delivery of broadband fall short of what is needed."

Too many people living and working in the countryside still suffered from poor or non-existent broadband connection, said Mr Price.

"It is a missed opportunity that this plan does not set out a specific Universal Service Obligation of at least 10 megabits per second (10Mbps) on network providers for all rural homes and businesses, including the last 5%.

"This is the only way to give rural communities and businesses the confidence that the discrimination they face will end."

Mr Price said the CLA agreed that the code governing access to land for mobile and broadband equipment (the electronic communications code) should be reformed.

"We will work with government to ensure that this is done quickly.

"It is vital that the code strikes a fair and workable balance to ensure that we get more infrastructure in our rural areas, but not in a way that imposes disproportionate costs and burdens on farmers and other landowners."

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