Arundel and South Downs MP Nick Herbert fights for rural broadband

MP Nick Herbert has called on the government to ‘challenge the dominance’ of BT to help rural communities secure better broadband.

Speaking in a Commons debate on broadband on Monday (October 12), Mr Herbert welcomed the government and West Sussex County Council’s (WSCC) programme to extend superfast broadband to the majority of businesses and households by the end of 2017, but warned one in seven premises in his constituency would still not have access to superfast under the plans.

Mr Herbert said: “Some households in my constituency can barely access broadband at all, let alone access superfast broadband.”

The MP said superfast broadband was ‘no longer a luxury, but was essential for public services, individuals and businesses’, and added there was a danger of a ‘digital divide’ opening up for households that could not get superfast.

He pointed out by 2017 some 6,500 premises in the Arundel and South Downs constituency would still not have access to it.

This would equate to 15 per cent of premises, three times the number implied by the Government’s target of connecting 95 per cent of premises by 2017.

Mr Herbert said: “It is clear from the Government’s figures that there will be a gap. What [my] constituents want to know is how that gap will be closed.

“We need to hear how the Government will ensure that rural areas are not permanently disadvantaged.

“Some households in my constituency can barely access broadband at all - they have the lowest possible speeds - let alone access superfast broadband.

“They need to hear now about future plans, recognising that their neighbours have successfully achieved … superfast access.”

He added: “there is a lack of competition in this area and that a shake-up of the market is needed.

“It is not satisfactory that 75 per cent of new superfast broadband customers on the Openreach network are BT or BT subsidiary customers.”

Mr Herbert will hold a ‘digital access’ summit in conjunction with the South Downs National Park Authority on Friday, November 20.

The summit will discuss how the premises which will not be covered under the Government and West Sussex County Council’s scheme will secure access to superfast broadband and digital services.

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