‘Major breakthrough’ for rural broadband needs to be matched by faster roll-out

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Country Land and Business Association (CLA) East has welcomed the Government’s introduction of a Universal Service Obligation (USO) for broadband of 10Mbps – but said more needs to be done to ensure every rural community is connected sooner rather than later.

Prime Minister David Cameron has announced that every home and business will have the legal right to request a 10Mbps connection by the end of the current parliament.

While this was described as a “major breakthrough” by CLA East, the organisation, which represents farmers, landowners, and rural businesses, said the roll-out had proven to be “frustrating” and risked missing another target.

CLA East Regional Surveyor Tim Woodward said: “We have been campaigning for reliable, affordable and effective broadband since 2002. At times it has felt like pushing water up hill, so it’s great to see this major breakthrough for rural communities. It will make a transformational difference to all those living and working in the countryside

“However, this comes after a string of unachieved targets over several Governments.

“The original policy was for 90 percent of coverage with at least 2Mbps by 2015. This target was not met, so was extended to 2017 – but to reach 95 percent of the population. This will still leave five percent mainly, but not solely, in rural areas not able to access broadband, which many of us consider to be the fourth utility.

“Times are moving faster than the broadband roll-out and while getting Government to commit to a USO of 10Mbps is excellent news, that figure will need to be 20Mbps if the speed of the roll-out of the superfast programme doesn’t increase also. It continues to frustrate with no guarantee the Government objective of reaching 95 percent of premises by 2017 will be met.

“The CLA will continue to lobby for everyone living and working in the countryside to have access to broadband as soon as possible, as well as ensuring that this pledge of receiving 10Mbps is realised.”