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UPD2 Penrith MP Wins UK Rural Mobile and Broadband Coverage Debate for Thursday

Posted: 16th May, 2011 By: MarkJ
cumbria_uk_broadband.jpgThe UK governments Conservative MP for Penrith (Cumbria), Rory Stewart, has won and will now lead an important House of Commons debate on rural broadband and mobile coverage after the Backbench Business Committee approved his motion. The debate could potentially lead to further mobile and rural broadband coverage improvements.

Debate Description

That this House recognises that rural businesses and rural communities across the UK are isolated and undermined by slow broadband and the lack of mobile voice and mobile broadband coverage; urges Ofcom to increase the coverage obligation attached to the 800MHz spectrum licence to 98 per cent.; and calls upon the Government to fulfil its commitment to build both the best superfast broadband network in Europe and provide everyone in the UK with a minimum of 2 Mbps by 2015.

The debate itself will take place this Thursday (19th May 2011) and, if sucessful, could lead to an additional 2 million people around Britain being able to benefit from improved mobile coverage; rural broadband could also be "significantly extended".

The Backbench Business Committee approved Rory's motion, which has gained support from MPs across the country, after it was told that the topic was of "great concern to Members with rural constituencies" and appropriate before the 31st May 2011 closure of Ofcom's consultation on mobile coverage obligations for spectrum licences.

The Penrith MP, Rory Stewart, said:

"I’m absolutely delighted that I have managed to secure this debate – essentially, a full Parliamentary debate – to push for wider broadband and to extend mobile telephone coverage in rural areas. If I can get that motion passed next Thursday, it should make a real difference to government policy and to 2 million people around the country."

Full debates proposed by backbenchers are quite rare and usually only occur when the subject is of significant interest. It's perhaps no coincidence that the governments Secretary of State (DCMS), Jeremy Hunt, confirmed last week that he wanted 90% of "people in each local authority area" to have access to a superfast (25Mbps+) broadband ISP service by 2015. The rest (last 10%) will only get up to 2Mbps (full details).

UPDATE 20th May 2011

Rory Stewart has accused Ofcom of refusing to raise the Mobile Broadband coverage commitment on its new spectrum licences from 95% to 98% because it is fearful that mobile operators might thus end up paying less in the forthcoming auction.

Ofcom disagrees, though Stewart estimates that raising the commitment would cost an extra £215 million pounds, which would be a small price to pay for all the benefits it should bring; especially to rural areas.

UPDATE 21st May 2011

Forgot to mention, here's the debate transcript.

http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2011-05-19a.557.0&s=ofcom#g601.0
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