Published: 4th Mar 2015
The government has been called upon by the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) to invest in universal broadband coverage in order to avoid potentially severe damage to the rural economy.
Briefing ministers ahead of the debate led by Devon MP Neil Parish on the management and delivery of rural broadband in Westminster Hall today (March 4th 2015), the CLA said more money needs to be spent on broadband in rural areas to help address the risk to rural businesses.
Currently, many rural residences and businesses are unable to access high-speed connections due to geographic isolation from established broadband infrastructure. This is compounded by the fact that many existing broadband improvement projects often skip over countryside locations due to the argument that it is not practical or cost-effective to develop these areas.
However, this puts the rural economy at risk in many ways, notably including the fact that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Rural Payments Agency are among the first government departments to move to a digital-by-default strategy.
As such, online applications for farm payments under the Common Agricultural Policy are now being rolled out at a time when more than ten per cent of businesses are struggling to get online to apply. Given that farmers and landowners are reliant on these payments for providing food, water and protecting the environment, the need for an effective, reliable and affordable broadband connection for farming businesses has never been more vital.
CLA president Henry Robinson said: "We urge MPs to keep the pressure on this vitally important issue. The figures are stark - ten to 15 per cent of the population still cannot get broadband.
"The government is only aiming to hit 95 per cent by 2017. This still leaves at least five per cent with no access to the internet and no target set for when full coverage will finally be delivered."
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