Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Newspaper column 3 August 2016 - Progress with rural broadband

One of the main issues raised with me across Mid-Cornwall is the poor level of broadband service provided to people living in rural areas.

In 2016 people rightly expect access to high-speed internet connections. Having a fast and stable broadband connection is increasingly a crucial part of our lives, both for leisure purposes but also vital for all manner of businesses. Whether at home or work, fast broadband should be a reality in all our communities. Sadly, this is not yet the case. In Mid-Cornwall people are dealing with some really poor connections and gaps in services. St Austell and Newquay falls into the bottom 30% of Parliamentary constituencies for the availability of superfast connections, and Cornwall itself gets a speed below the 10mb per second Ofcom say everyone should have.

I regularly meet with constituents who share their experiences of poor broadband service, and have also met with representatives from the Cornwall Development Company, the body responsible for the implementation of broadband infrastructure in Cornwall, and Openreach, the division of BT that maintains the UK’s largest phone and broadband network on behalf of competing providers to press for a better service locally.

In Westminster, earlier this year, I co-signed a report calling on telecoms regulator Ofcom to take radical action over the ‘natural monopoly’ too long enjoyed by BT Openreach.

I was pleased then, to see last week’s announcement that Openreach will become a "distinct company" within BT, with more control over its own finances and an independent board, as part of a package of reforms. Under Ofcom's proposals, Openreach will be forced to make its infrastructure of ducts and poles available to rival companies from next week, and face tough new performance rules that take effect later this year.

I believe Britain should be leading the world in digital innovation. Yet instead we suffer from having a BT run monopoly clinging to outdated copper technology with no proper long-term plan for the future. We need to start converting to a fully fibre network so we are not left behind by other nations who are rushing to embrace digital advancement.

However, we will only achieve this by taking action to open up the sector. While last week’s announcement is a good start, given all the delays and missed deadlines, I believe that only a formal separation of BT from Openreach, combined with fresh competition and a concerted ambition to deliver, will now create the broadband service that our constituents and businesses so rightly demand. I am pleased then, that Ofsted have put on record that if BT "cannot achieve" the reforms outlined in their plan, that they should become a separate company under different ownership.

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 Additionally, I hold regular, appointment only, advice surgeries across the constituency. Dates of these can be found at: