Liberal Democrat MEP and farmer Phil Bennion has declared that the government’s broadband plans are too short-sighted, saying that 10Mbps should be the minimum speed, not 2Mbps.
The West Midlands-based MEP has called for a u-turn on the broadband roll out policy, which he describes as delivering a first class service to some and a useless service for the rest.
Writing on The Parliament, Bennion said: “As a farmer myself, I know that my own 6Mbps connection is inadequate for the needs of doing all that I need to fulfil government requirements, particularly when speeds crash to around 1Mbps for parts of the day. For modern applications and to meet statutory requirements, farms and other rural businesses need speeds of at least 10Mbps.
“We have to remember that form filling and VAT returns, as well as applications for funding for renewable energy projects all now take place online, as do consultations and planning applications and submissions.”
This bind also applies to would-be applicants for Universal Credit, who will need to apply for benefits online. While provisions will be made for those who can’t get adequate broadband, there is still the potential for people to be caught in an offline benefits trap.
While BDUK (Broadband Delivery for the UK) and the MIP (Mobile Infrastructure Plan) will eventually deliver improvements for the majority of people, there will still be rural pockets that will have to make do with the minimum 2Mbps.
Local councils are currently being urged by DCMS (Department for Culture, Media and Sport), which is responsible for BDUK, to reveal the areas where the superfast broadband projects won’t reach.
BDUK regional projects will improve broadband for 90 per cent of properties in most cases, leaving a rough 10 per cent in rural areas who will have to make do with a basic service providing at least 2Mbps at all times of day.
BT has said that this will be delivered through a combination of technologies, with some residents getting faster speeds over bonded DSL lines and others via satellite broadband.
While it’s expected that people in the last 10 per cent will be able to get broadband well in excess of 2Mbps, the uncertainty is clearly getting to rural residents.
Bennion points to a recent protest meeting in the village of Clun, near the Welsh border, where 100 residents voiced their concerns. The Welsh Government recently announced the reintroduction of a scheme where families and firms not covered by the Superfast Cymru BDUK plan can apply for grants of up to £1,000 to pay for superfast connections to their home, village or business.