Government risks missing broadband targets, report warns
- Credit: PA
A Norfolk MP has called for ministers to work harder in order to see better broadband connection rolled out in rural areas.
Duncan Baker, MP for North Norfolk, made the comments following a report from a cross-party committee which has warned the government is unlikely to meet its target to make gigabit-capable broadband available to 85pc of the UK within the next five years.
The government had initially aimed for nationwide coverage by 2025 but revised this figure to 85pc following the spending review when it emerged that only 25pc of the original £5bn funding would be available.
A report from the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee said the decision to revise the goal was a "belated recognition that it was unrealistic and unachievable".
It also said that evidence given to the committee as part of its Broadband and the Road to 5G inquiry found plans to target 5G signal at population density rather than landmass could create rural signal blackspots.
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Mr Baker said he had long been a supporter of getting better broadband for residents and businesses in rural areas.
He said: "There are two problems in my view. Firstly, while the constituency is reasonably well covered in overall general provision, the last hard to reach 5pc of my homes are proving exceptionally hard to help with a cost-effective rollout.
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"Secondly, North Norfolk is still one of slowest areas, and well below the national average speed. I am very critical of the Universal Service Obligation (USO) scheme. It is a poor option for a lot of the remaining households in North Norfolk, and I have made this point to ministers to work harder for rural areas such as my constituency.
"A small voucher contribution is simply not enough to deliver a fast broadband service in our most remote locations."
Julian Knight, chairman of the DCMS committee, said: “The government’s decision to abandon its 2025 gigabit-capable broadband target within weeks of ministers reassuring us of their commitment to it was a belated recognition that it was unrealistic and unachievable, underlining concerns we’d heard from industry.
“Valuable time has been lost, making meeting even the revised-down target a major challenge."