An influential Committee of MPs has warned that poor broadband is causing harm to the rural economy and backed CLA calls to prioritise the ‘hardest-to-reach’ areas.
The CLA, which represents landowners, farmers and rural businesses gave evidence to the inquiry by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Select Committee into rural broadband and digital-only services last year. The Committee’s report published on 3 February echoed the CLA’s concerns over the roll-out of broadband to rural areas and the current minimum speed which, according to the Committee, is outdated to meet modern technology needs.
CLA President Henry Robinson said: “We are pleased MPs have listened carefully to the evidence we set out to them. The Committee is right to conclude that a minimum speed of two Megabits per second (Mbps) is now too slow a speed for modern requirements. It is also right to press the Government to review this, but it is a shame the report stopped short of calling for a Universal Service Obligation.
“It is clear that rural areas have fallen behind. If the Government is serious about levelling the playing field it must listen to MPs and prioritise hardest-to-reach areas, even if this means diverting new investment into alternative technologies such as satellite.
“Access to fast, reliable broadband and mobile phone coverage is vital for the success of rural business and social inclusion in the countryside. It is unacceptable that 10-15 percent of the population is still unable to get broadband. Every home or business that is not connected to the internet is suffering a major disadvantage.”