CLA East calls for end to the ‘digital divide’

Ben Underwood, regional director of the Country Land & Business Association.

Ben Underwood, regional director of the Country Land & Business Association. - Credit: Archant

A legal right to superfast broadband cannot come a day too soon, rural business campaigners have warned.

Speaking in the wake of a report by an influential group of MPs on the issue of poor broadband delivery in rural areas, Country Land and Business Association (CLA) East regional director Ben Underwood called for a faster timetable for ending the discrimination felt by those who live and work in the countryside.

The Culture, Media and Sport Committee report welcomes the Government’s commitment to a legal right to broadband of at least 10 megabites per second (Mbps), but questions whether bringing it in by the end of 2020 is soon enough, and whether the minimum speed will be fast enough in the future.

Mr Underwood said: “The Government’s commitment to a broadband Universal Service Obligation was a major breakthrough for those of us who have campaigned for an end to the discrimination felt by those that live and work in the countryside.

“The day this legal right to a superfast broadband connection becomes law cannot come a day too soon and we support the MPs’ challenge to Government to see if it can be brought in earlier.”

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The MPs’ report also said that BT should be forced to split off its Openreach networks business unless it improves the level of service it provides – and Jane Storey, Suffolk County Council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for the broadband programme, said many people would sympathise with the comments.

She said: “We have reached the stage where Openreach is getting to the more difficult properties, and there are many in the 14% that cannot get superfast broadband who will be feeling that the MPs have a good point. We are seeing a good take-up rate of broadband in Suffolk, but of course people have to pay extra for the service once a superfast box becomes available.

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“But we have to keep up the pressure on BT to make sure Openreach gets to more properties – broadband is a very important service for businesses and homes.”

MPs’ report attacks BT and regulator Ofcom – Page 5

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