Lack Of Support For Rural Communications Improvements Criticised

Feb 02, 2015

MPs including the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and Culture Secretary Sajid Javid have criticised those involved with improving communications in rural areas.

According to PAC Chair Margaret Hodge, BT and Whitehall are not doing enough to ensure countryside homes and businesses have the same Internet opportunities as those living in cities.

Hodge claims it is “an incredibly depressing and abysmal picture” that just 16% of firms in rural locations have access to the broadband services they require to grow and large portions of the country will be missed by the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) project.

“Half of rural firms are disadvantaged with the speed providers, you are clearly not delivering,” the MP told representatives of the broadband rollout industry.

“If you live in a little village and BT decides that even with £1.7bn of public money it is not profitable to invest in the village then you do not get this, so in some areas the rollout is much less than 90%,” she added.

The government is aiming to supply 90% of the population with superfast broadband by next year, but Hodge claims this is misleading because it still leaves one in ten without adequate Internet access.

Council Blocking Improvements

However, while the PAC chair believes Whitehall and telecoms firms like BT who are involved with the rollout of high speed broadband are responsible for failing rural areas, Sajid Javid claims there are other barriers.

Javid claims that local councils are blocking his attempts to improve mobile coverage in remote areas by denying the required planning permission.

“One of the key issues, unfortunately, is you often find people that complained about poor local mobile coverage in their area are the same people that don’t want the mast,” the Culture Secretary claimed.

“Every mast needs planning permission. I’m not going to name any local authorities but some that have been the most vocal about decent coverage in their area have actually been rejecting planning applications from us.

“Without a mast there is no coverage. It sounds simple but that is the issue you have to deal with,” he added.


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