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Labour MP Claims UK Superfast Broadband Funds Only Help Rich Rural People

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012 (8:54 am) - Score 568

Only rich people live outside of towns and cities in the United Kingdom. At least that’s what the Labour MP for Hyndburn, Graham Jones, appears to think. Jones suggested that the government’s plan to make superfast broadband services available to 90% of the country by 2015 would only “mean faster internet shopping for millionaires; it will not generate business in rural communities.”

Jones, whom made his controversial remarks as part of the Whitsun Recess in Parliament last week (Thursday 24th May), somewhat tediously implied that those living in rural areas would never need better broadband than they get today (assuming they can even get broadband in the first place). He suggested that the money could instead “go towards improving urban infrastructure such as rail and road links“.

Graham Jones MP said:

Another aspect of the situation in Lancashire is the local enterprise partnership, which I am deeply concerned about, and the programme for rural broadband. Not only are Lancashire residents being let down by the county council in terms of adult social care, Sure Start and other initiatives, but the Conservatives in Lancashire are obsessed with rural broadband, on which they are spending £32 million. When I asked for the figures on the number of beneficiaries per borough in Lancashire, they refused to provide them, but I acquired them for my constituency, where it appears that only some 4,000 people out of 80,000 will benefit from the upgrade to the rural broadband service.

That £32 million will mean faster internet shopping for millionaires; it will not generate business in rural communities. Many people in rural communities in Lancashire, such as the Ribble valley, already run businesses. That is why they live in the Ribble valley, and they do not operate from home.

The rural broadband policy in Lancashire will not provide additional businesses or create jobs. It will certainly not mean that businesses will be opened down country lanes that take two hours to drive down and are a long way from the urban centres. This is just about faster internet shopping for wealthy people. [ Interruption. ] I will say it whether people like it or not. In most cases, the urban areas in Lancashire are already connected to fast broadband. There is simply no need for this investment, which could go towards improving urban infrastructure such as rail and road links rather than towards providing rural broadband for some farm..”

Funnily enough such criticism was oddly silent when the previous Labour government were pushing for a similar approach. Likewise many of the most rural parts of the UK won’t even be covered by the governments plan, at least not unless a post-2015 policy is developed, since most rurals reside within the last 10% that has only been promised (“commitment“) broadband download speeds of at least 2Mbps (Megabits per second).

The idea that only wealthy people live outside of cities and towns is a bit flaky and suggests that Graham Jones might still be living in Victorian times. Today many rural communities have fewer job prospects, lower incomes and often face a higher cost of living. Younger people often have to move away just to find work. So it’s perhaps somewhat unfair to paint such a broad group of different people with a single brush. Credits to PC Pro for spotting the comment itself.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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