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Call for more action on broadband connection in rural areas

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: September 26, 2012

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Policies to deliver effective and affordable broadband connection for everyone in rural areas must be re-examined, countryside campaigners have said.

The Country Land and Business Association has launched a rural broadband policy paper to mark a decade of campaigning to bring fast, affordable broadband to the countryside.

Called “Broadband Fit for Rural Growth”, the paper sets out its vision for the future of rural broadband and calls for a strategic alliance with other interest groups to further influence the rural broadband debate.

CLA South West director John Mortimer said: “Broadband is an economic driver for rural businesses as well as helping the social development of rural communities.

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“But between 15 and 20 per cent of those who live in rural areas are still unable to receive anywhere near the Government’s benchmark of two megabits per second (Mbps).”

The Government has set aside more than £500 million to improve internet services in more remote areas which are unlikely to receive significant investment from private firms. It wants every property in the country to have a minimum internet connection of 2Mbps by 2015 and most to have access to so-called “superfast” broadband, with speeds of at least 25Mbps.

The Connecting Devon and Somerset project, led by the two county councils, has been given £30 million from Whitehall.

Mr Mortimer acknowledged there had been notable successes over the last decade but said there remained a huge hill to climb to achieve universal broadband coverage.

“We believe that by seeking to form a strategic alliance with other rural interest groups and by agreeing common objectives, we can convince the Government to do more to help the countryside and to deliver a comprehensive broadband strategy,” he said.

The CLA has also called on the Government to sign up to a legally binding “universal service obligation”.

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