CLA calls for action following MP concern about underinvestment in rural broadband

Poor customer service and an overreliance on a copper network that may not meet the future needs of homes and businesses, in particular for rural areas, are the main challenges set out in a report by an influential group of MPs.

The CLA, which represents more than 32,000 farmers, landowners and other rural businesses, has called on Ministers and BT to act quickly to set out its plans for addressing these failings and to deliver the broadband connections our countryside needs.

The report welcomes the Government’s commitment to a legal right to broadband at least 10 megabits per second but questions whether the timeframe for bringing it in (by the end of 2020) is soon enough; whether the minimum speed suggested will be sufficient in the future and whether there is sufficient investment planned in new infrastructure to replace the copper, domestic phone line, network.

CLA Deputy President Tim Breitmeyer 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 than the current target of end of 2020.

“MPs have challenged Government and BT to rethink their longstanding strategy of targeting the easiest to reach premises first and their reliance on the existing copper wire network rather than fibre-optic, mobile or other wireless connection methods. MPs are right to point out the risks of this strategy in failing to end the digital divide between our towns and countryside.

“Rural communities and small alternative providers need immediate clarity from Openreach as to the extent of their roll-out plans for fibre, so that other solutions can be chosen if required.

“As the Government implements the universal service obligation, it must include clear targets for replacing and upgrading infrastructure, such as replacing copper wires with fibre optic cables, in rural areas. We do not have to accept a model whereby our rural areas wait in line behind urban centres, and we won’t.”

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