MPs launch inquiry into rural broadband concerns

AN influential committee of MPs has launched an inquiry into rural broadband coverage.

The inquiry by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee, follows concern that rural communities will miss out amid a government target to provide most areas with superfast broadband.

Duncton villagers are currently missing out on the chance of better, faster, broadband because agreement cannot be reached with a landowner.

Just three weeks ago chairman of the parish council Marie Bracey said villagers were feeling ‘very sore’ because they were no nearer obtaining the high-speed fibre-optic broadband.

But other villages in the area have been luckier. Faster broadband is now available from new green fibre cabinets connected to exchanges in villages including Fittleworth and Graffham.

Mrs Bracey said Duncton’s problem was with cabinet 
four by Coultershaw Bridge.

The government aims are to ensure superfast broadband is available by 2017 to 95 per cent of UK premises with universal access to a 
standard broadband speed of at least 2Mbps.

The cross-party committee of MPs will examine the current broadband coverage in rural areas and the new digital-only services.

It will also look at the ‘assisted digital’ support being offered for farm businesses which need to access government online services but at present cannot.

The committee is inviting stakeholders and interested parties to submit written evidence about the extent of broadband coverage in hardest-to-reach rural areas.

It is also inviting written evidence on digital access and experience of the government’s digital-only programmes relating to the Common Agricultural Policy.

Written submissions for this inquiry should be sent in via the rural broadband and ‘digital-only services’ inquiry page on the environment, food and rural affairs website.

The deadline for making representations to the government is Wednesday, November 19.

Anyone sending written evidence to the MPs’ inquiry should make it clear who they are representing and make sure their evidence is no longer than 3,000 words.

The department of environment, food and rural affairs also asks people to include a shorter summary of their concerns.

A spokesman said: “Submissions should be original work, not previously published or circulated elsewhere.”