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MPs Setup Rural Broadband All-Party Parliamentary Group to Tackle BT

Saturday, June 20th, 2015 (7:41 am) - Score 2,104

A group of MPs, primarily from Devon and Somerset in England’s South West, have established a new All-Party Parliamentary Group that will investigate the roll-out of superfast broadband (24Mbps+) services. The group also intends to “put pressure” on BT to stop the operators alleged “delaying antics” and be more transparent with their coverage plans.

It’s understood that the group’s formation was sparked last week after 50 MPs from the South West gathered to moan about progress in the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK programme, which aims to make fixed line superfast broadband services available to 95% of the UK by 2017/18.

The new group will be chaired by Ian Liddell-Grainger MP and has support from Rebecca Pow MP and Neil Parish MP among others. Unfortunately the Government’s register of APPG’s hasn’t been updated since March 2015 (here) and as such the details are still a bit thin on the ground.

Ian Liddell-Grainger MP said:

I am ashamed to tell you that in some parts of the constituency it is almost quicker to send a letter by post than expect an email to arrive safely. High speed broadband remains a pipe dream if you live out in the sticks. This dismal state of affairs has got to change.

I have joined together with Parliamentary colleagues from all parties to form a new Broadband and Mobile Telecoms Committee which can bring pressure to bear on Government and industry to get some action. Such a Committee has never existed at Westminster before. Today I was appointed Chairman. At last there is a united voice at Westminster pressing for big changes.”

Separately Neil Parish has indicated to another newspaper (here) that a lot of the problems rest with BT: “BT are delivering in places, but there are still too many villages like Upottery in the Blackdown hills where they don’t know when they’re going to get connected. I think BT and BDUK do have the capability to deliver, but they must do it faster and must be more transparent about it. We want to make sure that enough pressure – the expression feet to the fire comes to mind – is being put on BT to make sure they do better.”

In fairness BDUK’s progress currently appears to be reasonably on-target for a Government supported programme (at least it is for the first 90% coverage target). Meanwhile one reason for some villages being unable to learn when they will be covered is because a clear strategy to fill the final 5% has yet to be finalised and funded, which needs to come from the Government (most likely before the 2016 Budget).

At the same time Local Authorities and BDUK alike need to ensure that they are not reliant upon BT for a solution to connecting the final 5% because the operator may not always decide that it is in their interest to bid for such contracts, which is why it’s important to keep an eye on alternative network operators that can do some of the jobs.

Unfortunately over the past few years some councils have been so swift to dismiss altnets that a few of those same operators may no longer wish to work with them either. A bit of fence mending would go a long way towards resolving that.

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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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