Broadband is a 'fundamental right' header image

Published: 3rd Feb 2015

The broadband service in some rural communities is so slow that the UK is at risk of becoming a "two-tier" society, despite connectivity being a "fundamental right", a group of MPs has cautioned.

A report from the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee claims that the government's plans to roll out super-fast internet across 95 per cent of Britain will leave the remaining five per cent straggling behind, with some not having access to any broadband.

The MPs warn that plans to make the internet the default option for all public services, such as paying for council and car tax online, is "premature" and based on a misinformed assumption that people already have access to broadband in rural communities.

According to the report, a subsidy system for farmers is moving to an internet-only platform despite the poor quality of connectivity in the countryside, meaning that some will not be able to access it.

To resolve this issue, the MPs suggest that the government provide households in rural communities that can't currently access the internet with vouchers to subsidise satellite broadband connections, rather than install cables that may not extend to such areas.

Satellite broadband is a viable alternative to fixed-line connectivity as it can be used anywhere in the country without restrictions on the quality of the service. Avonline can offer those in rural communities with a fast and consistent connection, where other broadband providers may struggle.

Neil Parish, a Conservative member of the committee, told the Telegraph: "Access to broadband should be considered a fundamental right. So much of life is conducted online now."

Chairman of the committee Anne McIntosh didn't describe the service as a basic right, but did add that she felt it was essential to modern life. She said: "Broadband is an essential, everyday public utility. schoolchildren can't do their homework, people can't pay their tax, people can't even watch a film on it. It's the haves and the have-nots."

Currently, around 850,000 people cannot access broadband, even at speeds of just 2 Mbps, which isn't even fast enough to allow anything more than "basic functionality", the MPs explained.