Published: 22nd Jun 2016
Cumbria has been promised by a government minister the financial backing for the rollout of super-fast broadband, amid concerns that the UK's most isolated rural communities could lose out if funding dries up.
During a debate at Westminster Hall with Penrith and the Border MP Rory Stewart, Ed Vaizey, minister for culture, communications and creative industries, made assurances that he was committed to finding a flexible solution for the county's slow connectivity, the News & Star reports.
Mr Stewart, who has championed rural broadband, challenged Mr Vaizey to ensure there would be funding in the future to improve the speed and connectivity Cumbrians have access to.
He urged the minister to resolve a stand-off between government departments, which he believes could prevent the county from getting additional funds from the European Union (EU).
According to the MP, Cumbria has been the "national test" for delivering rural broadband and the government must do everything it can to deliver its goal of 93 per cent coverage to homes and businesses by the end of 2015, but should also prioritise the remaining seven per cent of homes "who are those most in need of being connected to this incredibly important utility".
"That is why I pressed the Minister today to confirm absolutely that Cumbria would not end up in a situation where inflexibility and a narrow interpretation of EU guidelines could leave us with tens of thousands of constituents without broadband coverage, which would be intolerable," he commented.
In response, Mr Vaizey said he has taken on board the MP's comments and has been in touch with the relevant minister at the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and is working to find a solution to spend the EU funding well on behalf of constituents.
Mr Stewart feels that is imperative that the seven per cent of homes in Cumbria that are missing out on super-fast broadband - those in the most rural and isolated communities - benefit from better technology.
Rural communities that have been promised this in the future may want to look at alternative options in the meantime to improve their poor service.
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