MPs launch investigation into rural broadband rollout header image

Published: 22nd Jun 2016

The Culture, Sport and Media Committee has announced plans to investigate the rate of superfast broadband delivery to the five per cent of homes not included in the current rollout initiative.

Some members of the committee had expressed their concerns that these remaining homes and businesses might never be eligible for high-speed broadband under the current plans, mostly in rural areas.

At present, the UK government is supporting the provision of broadband internet to 95 per cent of the country’s premises by the end of 2017 through Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), which is supporting the process in areas that BT and Virgin Media do not believe are commercially viable. This initiative is currently on track, with 90 per cent of locations set to be connected by the end of December 2016.

The inquiry is set to look at what other countries are doing to tackle their so-called “not-spots”, and to investigate whether similar solutions could be viable for the UK, as well as potential lines of research that could provide new and innovative solutions. There also suggestions that internet providers could do more to overcome the existing problems.

The process presents significant challenges, as the remaining five per cent of areas not covered by current connectivity plans are spread over 70 per cent of the UK’s landmass. While rural areas are those most commonly affected, 20 per cent of these areas are located in pockets of poor connectivity in inner city districts. Internet problems can also be made worse by poor mobile services, both in terms of normal signal and 3G internet, which are often a problem in the same locations.

The select committee’s chairman, MP Jesse Norman, said: "Proper digital connectivity is key both to the well-being of many communities and to Britain's economic future. Yet many people and businesses are unable to receive the digital access and services they need. This inquiry is designed to find out exactly why that is, and how to fix it."