Country Landowners' Association says Government will not hit its own target
A call has been made for a new look at delivering an effective and affordable broadband connection for everyone in rural areas by the Country Landowners' Association.
The CLA says the Government is unlikely to meet its own objective of the UK having the best broadband network in Europe by 2015.
The association launched a rural broadband policy paper today which marks ten years of lobbying and campaigning to bring fast, affordable broadband to the countryside.
The paper - Broadband Fit for Rural Growth - sets out its vision for the future of rural broadband and calls for a strategic alliance with other interest groups to further influence the rural broadband debate.
CLA South West Director John Mortimer said: “Broadband is an economic driver for rural businesses as well as helping the social development of rural communities.
" But between 15 and 20 percent of those who live in rural areas are still unable to receive anywhere near the Government’s benchmark of two megabits per second.”
There had, he said been some notable successes in the ten years since the CLA started campaigning, but there remained a huge hill to climb to achieve universal broadband coverage.
“We believe that by seeking to form a strategic alliance with other rural interest groups and by agreeing common objectives, we can convince the Government to do more to help the countryside and to deliver a comprehensive broadband strategy,” he said.
The CLA is also calling on the Government to sign up to a legally binding universal service obligation rather than just a universal service commitment.
“There is no legal sanction behind a universal service commitment - it provides the Government with a get-out clause if the benchmark is not achieved which looks pretty unlikely,” said Mr Mortimer.
The policy also calls on the Government to provide an appropriate framework allowing rural communities to “piggy-back” onto public sector broadband.
“Until a fixed-line broadband infrastructure is put in place, other technologies must be used to bridge the rural/urban digital divide," he said.
"Access to broadband is the key issue for most of us in rural areas rather so we must look at ways this can be delivered in the short term.
"We have suggested allowing rural communities to 'piggy-back' onto public sector broadband and using other technologies such as wi-fi and satellite to plug the gaps - but the Government must create the right conditions for this happen.”