Broadband - Campaigning 2010-2015.
In 2010, fewer than half of UK premises had access to superfast broadband. By the end of this year, the Government’s nationwide programme will have brought broadband coverage to 95% of the UK.
Campaigning for superfast broadband in Devon has been one of Neil’s top priorities since his election in 2010. In his Maiden Speech to the House of Commons, he pressed the Government to ‘roll out broadband throughout the constituency and throughout rural areas’.
It’s a subject Neil has stuck to. Between 2010 and 2015, Neil called Parliamentary debates and lobbied Culture Ministers to press the Government to bring broadband to the hardest to reach areas in Tiverton and Honiton constituency. Over 75,000 businesses and households in Devon and Somerset have either had no access, or very slow access to broadband. 90% of businesses across the two counties have said that poor connectivity threatens their survival and growth. Neil called for rapid progress to improve this and believes broadband access should be regarded as important as a utility.
In May 2011, Devon and Somerset's joint bid to the Culture Department (responsible for Broadband) for funding was approved. It provided £30 million of the £50 million pot, giving Devon and Somerset the largest share of the first three bids. The money was spent on upgrading Devon and Somerset’s broadband infrastructure and coverage.
Since then, Neil met regularly with Ministers as well as with BT and Connecting Devon & Somerset (CDS) to hold all parties to account on securing better broadband for Devon.
Ensuring Government continues to hit its targets
In the last Parliament, Neil secured a Parliamentary debate on rural broadband and spoke in another debate on BT broadband provision for local businesses. He raised issues such as poor communication and customer service, a lack of compensation and the potential break-up of Openreach (the monopoly group that owns telephone cables) from the commercial arm of BT.
Recently, CDS and BT have begun to meet their targets and Phase 1 is near completion. This has provided superfast broadband access to around 277,000 residents and businesses across the CDS area to date.
Phase 2 of the broadband rollout is now in progress. CDS have signed contracts with broadband providers such as Gigaclear, who have a mapping tool to show if your property is covered: https://www.gigaclear.com/postcode-checker/ .
Neil wants to see businesses treated as a priority in getting broadband to the remaining premises – and will continue to work hard to ensure quality broadband reaches every corner of Devon. The households and businesses of the county deserve nothing less.