Claire Perry, MP for Devizes - Broadband investment is vital part of rural growth (From This Is Wiltshire)
Claire Perry, MP for Devizes - Broadband investment is vital part of rural growth
12:00pm Thursday 28th February 2013 in Latest News
As all eyes switch to the Chancellor’s Budget due next month, the huge efforts made to deliver real growth in Britain continue – and it is working.
There are over a million more private sector jobs since the election, unemployment is lower nationally and locally than at the time of the election, banks are lending more and the economy is slowly rebalancing but we need still more focus on growth. One way to deliver this is with increased investment in physical infrastructure – such as the electrification of the rail line as far as Westbury, which I have been calling for and which is currently being reviewed by the Department for Transport.
But there was another infrastructure announcement recently that should help local growth considerably: the multi-million pound deal signed by Wiltshire and South Gloucestershire councils for super-fast broadband. For too long rural areas have been a poor relation when it comes to digital connectivity and yet, ironically, it is in these areas that investment has been most needed.
High speed internet connections allow rural businesses to diversify, farmers to review markets and process the (still sadly huge) piles of red tape online, people to work from home and so reduce the need for expensive and long commutes and hi-tech businesses to move from urban areas, bringing jobs and investment into rural Britain.
It is therefore great that the councils have signed a £36 million pound deal that will deliver internet access speeds of up to 80mbps for more than 90 per cent of homes and businesses in Wiltshire by March 2016.
But while the future is bright for high speed fixed broadband, things are not so rosy in the mobile spectrum.
While the Government is committed to investing £150m to improve mobile coverage in the UK, and this work has started, there are still large chunks of Wiltshire where the coverage is patchy to non-existent – indeed I had better reception in the middle of Kabul than I sometimes get on Marlborough High Street.
There are a complex series of problems to overcome, including possible planning issues around new mobile phone masts, but as consumers we can certainly do more to pressure the mobile phone network suppliers to lift their game. I am interested in the protest about poor mobile service started in Marlborough by Justin Cook and I have written to the chief executive of the company concerned to ask for his reaction to this great example of people power.