Having access to good quality broadband has become an essential part of modern life. According to the Office for National Statistics, the internet was accessed every day, or almost every day by 78% of adults, that’s more than 39 million people, in Great Britain last year.
Whether it’s used for online banking, shopping, filling out your tax return or staying in touch with family and friends - online connectivity now dominates modern life.
It forms communities, aids research and study and has revolutionised both the way people live their lives and the way business operates. Because of this, almost all sectors have seen massive growth thanks to the internet, and to ensure continued progress, having a decent broadband connection is part of that.
But there are still people being left behind and in this fast paced technological age where more and more things are becoming digital, this is simply not good enough.
This is why it is hugely welcome that the Government included a Universal Service Obligation for broadband in the recent Queen’s Speech. This will mean providers have to deliver at least a 10mb connection for all residential homes.
This will be hugely welcome here in Cornwall where, although we have good general coverage of broadband, we do still have a significant number of ‘not spots’ in hard to reach rural areas.
I have met with many constituents who are still having major issues in accessing a good broadband connection and currently have no end in sight in their battle to secure one. It is also worth remembering that we also have a significant number of properties who fall far below the 10mb standard.
However, not only is the internet an essential part of domestic life, it is vital to the growth and success of businesses. It can be the passport to prosperity and we need to seize that opportunity.
Online shopping is a massive part of this and further figures from the ONS show that the value of online sales increased by 9.3% in April of this year, compared to that of last. The average weekly spend online in April 2016 was £886.6 million – an increase of 9.3% compared to the same period last year.
These figures clearly demonstrate how important good quality broadband connection is to those who trade online. Equally, it is just as important to those who rely on it to connect themselves to wider markets or their customers and clients. And often like the case in Cornwall, bridge the gap between rural areas and cities like London.
So it is because of this that I am pressing the Government to confirm that this a Universal Service Obligation measure which will not only cover residential areas but will also be extended to business properties.
This will be essential for the future of the Cornish economy and the growth we need to see to address the very real issue of our low wage economy. Too many of our businesses are located in the hard to reach areas, the areas that need that connectivity the most.
For example, the world-renowned Lost Gardens of Heligan are currently unable to get any sort of broadband connection. Cornwall Airport Newquay, despite being part of the Aerohub Enterprise Zone do not have a broadband connection. These are just two examples and there are many more. It is simply not good enough that in this day and age, these situations still exist.
Therefore, I am calling for this Universal Service to be extended to all properties including businesses and I am working to strongly urge the Government to give this their full consideration and take action now before we are left behind.
As always, my team and I are here to serve the whole constituency and work hard to make a real difference to the lives of everyone needing support. If there is an issue you would like my assistance on then please contact me on either 01726 829379 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Additionally, I hold regular, appointment only, advice surgeries across the constituency. Dates of these can be found at: www.stevedouble.org.uk/events