Alistair Burt MP: Bringing rural 5% up to speed

Alistair Burt

Alistair Burt

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How our world has changed. In what seems a blink of an eye we have gone from hearing of the internet and broadband as a marvel, to wondering how we can join its privileged club, to it being a necessity.

This Government’s programme for accessing broadband has been a great success – we lead the EU’s ‘Big Five’ in terms of coverage and we are on our way to ensuring 95 per cent superfast broadband access by 2017. But these figures make it all the more frustrating if we live in one of the UK’s 5 per cent hard to reach areas, covering parts of North East Beds – where even basic speed is not being reached, let alone superfast. Over the past couple of years I have worked with councillor colleagues, BT and others, held meetings throughout the constituency, and raised in Parliament the need for recognition of the problems facing householders and businesses in such blankspots.

We have achieved some success, encouraging Government to devote extra resource, and making the case that in some locations BT will not be the answer, so it needs alternatives. Last week I took a small delegation to see the minister responsible. This included someone from Colmworth, to represent the rural northern areas beyond Bedford. We heard the Government was now committed to doing even more for the most difficult 5 per cent. As far as alternatives are concerned, there are seven pilot projects taking place, including wireless and satellite. We recognise what has already been done, but an expanding rural community will only fulfil its potential through being fully connected.