The importance of superfast broadband is clear and securing access for everyone is a top priority.
It keeps people connected, and will help to unleash the potential of our rural economy and keep people in touch, from farmers to eBay entrepreneurs. So, as I travel around the patch, it's been pleasing to see new broadband cabinets appearing in towns and villages, progress has been made.
The Government is committed to extending superfast broadband to cover 95% of all UK homes and businesses by 2017. But, in many places, BT have a monopoly and the lack of competition means there is a real danger that those who live in the 'hardest to reach areas' won’t be able to access this technology and the benefits it brings. As always with new technology, there is a real risk of some communities being left out and falling behind, this isn't right or fair.
Unfortunately, whilst progress has been made here in Somerset. The Connecting Devon and Somerset Partnership, who are responsible for rollout, have reverted to a closed tender process, BT is the only bidder. I've been working away, asking difficult questions, organising and attending debates and meetings in Parliament.
As Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Local Democracy, I hosted a roundtable discussion which will took place in Parliament on the 11th February. Guest speakers including Government Officials, Vodaphone, the Countryside Alliance and a representative from the satellite broadband industry. Peter Doyle, of Connecting Devon & Somerset was invited.
Our Group decided that I would write to the Competition and Markets Authority following the meeting, read my letter.
I recently stood up at Prime Minister's Questions (25th February) to quiz the PM on the issue below. The following week (4th March) I co-sponsored a Parliamentary Debate in Parliament on the issue, you can watch both videos below.
Prime Minister's Questions 25th February 2015
Parliamentary Debate, Management and Delivery of Broadband