MAJOR BOOST TO THE CAMPAIGN FOR A RURAL STRATEGY:
The Independent Food, Farming & Countryside Commission hosted by the RSA in its report launched on Tuesday 16th July ‘Our Future in the Land’ has added its voice to the calls by the RSN and the House of Lords Select Committee for a comprehensive Rural Strategy (more to follow)
The government says it has delivered on a manifesto commitment to extend superfast broadband to 95% of the UK by the end of 2017.
Figures from www.thinkbroadband.com suggest more than 19 out of 20 UK homes and businesses now have the opportunity to upgrade their connections to 24 Mbps or faster.
Culture secretary Matt Hancock said this speed was more than double what telecoms watchdog Ofcom advises is required by a typical family home.
But the Country Land and Business Association said many rural areas were still languishing on much slower broadband connections.
Mr Hancock said the £1.7bn government rollout of superfast broadband to areas deemed “not commercially viable” by industry has so far reached more than 4.5 million UK premises.
Many of these would otherwise have been left in the connectivity slow lane, the majority of which are in rural areas, says the government.
It says this closing of the “digital divide” has also boosted local economies – creating around 50,000 new local jobs and generating an additional £8.9 billion in turnover.
'Fit for future'
Mr Hancock said: “We’ve delivered on our commitment to reach 95% of homes and businesses in the UK, but there’s still more to do in our work building a Britain that’s fit for the future.
“We’re reaching thousands more premises every single week, and the next commitment is to making affordable, reliable, high speed broadband a legal right to everyone by 2020.”
CLA president Tim Breitmeyer acknowledged that achieving 95% coverage was an important milestone in the delivery of superfast broadband across the UK.
But Mr Breitmeyer added: “This still leaves significant areas devoid of a fast connection, critical for many rural businesses.
Getting connections to rural homes and businesses was complex and expensive but essential and a crucial part of establishing fairness and balance in the economy.
“That is why the universal service obligation of 10Mbps that we fought so hard for, is important not only to rural areas but to the whole country.
“It is not just imperative to get rural homes and businesses connected in the first place but also to ensure the service they receive keeps pace with demand and technological change.”
The universal service obligation must be enacted in law without delay,” said Mr Breitmeyer.
“Once it is in force, we will press for it to be constantly updated to end the digital divide that has held back our economy for too long.”
Openreach chief executive Clive Selley said the network provider had come a long way in a short space of time, with one of the fastest broadband deployments in the world.
“This is an important milestone – but we’re not stopping here,” he said.
“The Government’s Universal Service Obligation will make high speed broadband a legal right and we’ll be working with industry, Government and Ofcom to deliver this.”
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