Speaking in a House of Commons debate last week, David Warburton MP for Somerton and Frome demanded improved broadband connectivity for rural communities in the South West.
Appealing to Matt Warman, Minister for Digital and Broadband, David asserted, “It is still the case that too many homes and businesses across our counties do not have access to decent broadband speeds, and the pandemic has shown even more clearly that digital connectivity is like being connected to water or electricity—it is an essential utility and a vital service!”
David continued, “Rural communities throughout the UK—Somerset is no exception—suffer from a productivity gap with urban areas and, as I said in last month’s debate on the rural productivity gap, the answer lies in technology and infrastructure. Even before lockdown, a quarter of the rural population worked from home, and that will only increase, but Somerset is sprinkled with areas that have unreliable, intermittent or very slow connectivity.
A former businessman and entrepreneur, David highlighted the digital challenges faced by businesses in his constituency of Somerton and Frome:
“If small and medium-sized enterprises are the engine of the rural economy, how can we get that engine started and running smoothly? Alongside agriculture, there are huge numbers of blossoming, blooming, burgeoning start-ups and growing businesses. For example, the logistics and supply-chain company Vallis Commodities in my own Frome utterly depends on Somerset’s digital infrastructure.”
Last week David conducted a virtual meeting with representatives from OpenReach, asking for an update on the roll-out of Ultrafast broadband for the south west, and securing commitment to further investment in rural areas.
David emphasised, “Our counties have vast untapped economic potential, and it is the digital divide that needs to be bridged for that to be truly unlocked. With every passing day, the divide grows and becomes more and more impassable. So my message to the Minister is: come on folks, let’s get building!”