CLA renews broadband calls after Ofcom report

Director of policy & public affairs for the North, Douglas Chalmers says lack of internet access is an 'indictment' of UK

Douglas Chalmers, CLA North director of policy & public affairs
Douglas Chalmers, CLA North director of policy & public affairs

The CLA has reinforced its call for a Universal Service Obligation for access to high-speed broadband, after the publication of Ofcom’s Infrastructure Report 2014, outlining the challenges facing the UK’s communications networks.

Ofcom, the independent regulator for the sector, acknowledged that the country was making good progress in the roll-out and take-up of key communications services. However its report also stressed that there was more to do, particularly when it came to improving broadband and mobile availability, and boosting the quality of service experienced by consumers and businesses.

Four specific challenges were identified, including broadband availability for SMEs, access to ultra-fast broadband, so called ‘city not-spots’ and the rural roll-out.

“The Government and industry are looking at a range of options that might provide superfast broadband to the ‘final 5%’ of UK premises,” Ofcom said on the latter point.

“While this is technically complex and expensive, it is important that these remaining homes and businesses are not left behind.”

The regulator, which has produced a new Interactive Map to provide a single-stop for those interested in assessing the communication networks in their areas, also suggested that a typical UK household may now need a connection offering at least 10 Mb/s to support its internet activities.

The CLA, which has a 34,000-strong membership, supports landowners by advising them on how best to protect and maximise their land assets. It has been campaigning on high speed broadband access for a number of years.

The organisation’s director of policy & public affairs for the North, Douglas Chalmers, said: “Access to fast, reliable broadband and mobile phone coverage is vital for the success of rural business and social inclusion in the rural north.

“It is only right that we have in place networks that can meet the needs of future generations as more and more people use mobiles and the internet.

“But it cannot be forgotten in 4G-enabled Westminster that every home or business not connected to the internet is suffering a major disadvantage. It is an indictment that in a first world country 10-15% of the population cannot get broadband.

“That is why we are calling for a Universal Service Obligation for access to broadband, including a fixed-line broadband service of at least 10 Mb/s.

“While this will not happen overnight, in the short-term we must explore alternative technologies such as satellite to ensure the needs are met of the 5% of rural areas not currently connected.”

Ofcom chief executive, Ed Richards, said: “Digital infrastructure is crucial to the UK’s future. As a country we are continuing to make real progress, particularly in the roll-out and take-up of superfast broadband and 4G mobile services.

“But there is more to be done. We need to continue asking whether collectively we are doing enough to build the infrastructure of the future, and to maintain the competition that benefits consumers and businesses.”


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