Faster Internet Speeds Are Essential In Our Rural Area

by Roger Abbott on 2 January, 2017


It was great to meet these people, who were installing fibre-optic cable near Capel

Fast and reliable digital connectivity is a necessity for households and businesses in the UK.

The Liberal Democrats are calling on the Government to re-affirm its commitment to a national minimum broadband speed across the country to stop hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses falling into a “digital twilight zone”. However, after delays to the Digital Economy Bill and the Government’s Digital Strategy caused by Theresa May’s new ministerial postings, and insufficient funding allocated to county councils it appears that commitments are not being met. As a result, Surrey County Council is planning to drop the target as the limited further funding it expects will still leave many of the remaining 20,000 properties without access to Superfast Broadband.

Good internet access is now a vital element of everyday life. Even more so in the rural areas where transport costs are rising rapidly. A reliable internet connection is essential to enable us all to cut household bills, shop online for cheaper goods, stay in touch with distant relatives, access bank accounts and so on.

For some time there has been a time penalty if tax returns are not filed on-line. Now, pretty much all central and local government services are set to become ‘digital by default’. That’s fine for people living in towns and cities where the cable companies have cherry-picked the most profitable customers. Out here, it is a different story where line speeds through overhead telegraph wires are notoriously slow and unreliable.

For businesses it is even worse. Everybody now expects a business to have broadband at least fast enough to have a video link. Drawings and documents need to be shared and updated on-line, stock management and accounting systems are operated on-line and many government and regulatory requirements can only be carried out on-line. Frankly, if we are dealing with clients in the far east then our inability to use facilities they consider standard is more than an embarrassment: we do not have the credibility to be business partners.

For our rural communities to remain sustainable we need businesses to operate in our areas. We are particularly suitable for small businesses, perhaps only employing a few people. But without the same communications facilities as are available elsewhere we risk losing that commercial viability that maintains our community heritage.

Immediately, Surrey County Council must press ahead and ensure all households and all businesses have access to at least the minimum Superfast Broadband standard.

Going forward, Government policy needs to change. Just as with other essentials like electricity, water and postal services, internet provision at a common high standard is a service to which we are all entitled.

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