Broadband

West Sussex County Times Article

I always look forward to the Amberley Business Breakfast - not only for the delicious cooked breakfast but for the chance to meet up with local residents, councillors and businesspeople to discuss their concerns.

Last time, broadband - or the lack of it - was raised by Pulborough district councillor and rural campaigner Roger Paterson.

It's a topic that comes up frequently when I meet constituents in my surgeries and when I visit local schools and businesses.  And I raised the issue in Parliament last year, warning of the growing "digital divide" between urban and rural communities.

There's no doubt that superfast broadband offers huge opportunities - hundreds of thousands of jobs, better delivery of public services and, according to the Federation of Small Businesses, an £18 billion boost to our GDP.

This week the Government announced that it would invest £830 million - largely funded by an existing underspend on the digital switchover scheme and a new TV licence fee settlement - to stimulate competition and unlock billions of pounds of private investment.

The aim is to create the best superfast network in Europe by 2015.  And we want to ensure universal provision of at least 2Mbps, too.

It's tremendous news and will represent a digital revolution.  Although frankly, I think many people in West Sussex would walk over hot coals just to get the two megabytes, let alone superfast broadband.

We still have a number of "not-spots" and, incredibly, of the six "non-ADSL" exchanges in the country, three are in West Sussex.

It will be a huge challenge to extend superfast coverage to rural communities so I welcome the promise of £50 million to carry out trials in hard-to-reach areas.

I will of course support any village in my constituency that wants to fight for broadband access.  It's absolutely crucial that communities work together and I'm organising a local "summit" involving some of the key players to discuss how we take things forward.

Meanwhile, I would encourage you to take part in a County Council consultation (www.westsussex.gov.uk/broadband) which ends this month - it's a chance to highlight broadband needs in your area.

Because no-one should underestimate the value of superfast broadband - not just in terms of growth, jobs and efficiency - but for its potential to make a lasting, positive impact on our daily lives.


Document type

Articles

Published

9 December 2010

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