More cash needed to get fast broadband into all West Sussex rural areas

MP Nick Herbert speaking in the Commons debate on rural phone and broadband connectivity SUS-151002-141658003
MP Nick Herbert speaking in the Commons debate on rural phone and broadband connectivity SUS-151002-141658003
  • BT is committed to taking superfast broadband to 95 per cent of homes by December 2017
  • But the company says bringing near total coverage would be like ‘rewiring’ the UK
  • BT says it is possible but only if there was enough money

EVERY rural household in the country can be connected to superfast broadband – but only if BT is given more state cash.

The telecoms giant is already committed to taking the technology to 95 per cent of homes and businesses, but says increasing that to near-total coverage would be equivalent to ‘rewiring the UK’.

Rural areas complain they are being sidelined because of the cost of connection.

Just last week, Stedham villagers discussed launching a campaign for faster broadband after being told the village was too far away from its nearest cabinet to be able to connect to a superfast 
service.

And at Sutton, Elsted, and Plaistow villagers have complained poor internet connection means they cannot shop online and their children’s studies are hampered.

But Bill Murphy, BT’s managing director for next generation access, said the government and private-sector partnership ‘will need more funding’ to get near 100 per cent.

There will need to be further discussion of how we can close the digital divide that is in danger of opening up in rural areas that do not have access to superfast broadband

MP Nick Herbert

The government’s ambition is to provide 95 per cent of 
the UK with access to ‘super-fast’ broadband by 2017, and 90 per cent by the end of the 
year.

But rural residents and businesses in the ‘final five per cent’ fear they will get left behind, with MPs raising fears of constituents in ‘digital darkness’.

Prospective parliamentary candidate for Petworth Nick Herbert has argued broadband is an essential infrastructure to ensure economic growth, and is ‘equally essential in rural areas’.

He said: “There will need to be further discussion of how we can close the digital divide that is in danger of opening up in rural areas that do not have access to superfast broadband.”

Mr Murphy said the 90-per-cent target by December, 2015, would be met, and 95 per cent by December, 2017, was ‘a challenge but we are certainly going for it’.

He said getting to 100 per cent was possible ‘if you have enough money’, but there was a ‘value for money test’ to meet.

Meanwhile, a new survey by the County Councils Network revealed 45 per cent of county councils are concerned the government’s target for rolling out superfast broadband will not be met.

Increasing concerns about the value and transparency of the programme were also revealed.

Spokesman Martin Hill said the programme needed to be more flexible and 
transparent.