It’s more difficult to deliver fast broadband to rural areas like the Forest of Dean. This not only affects the ability of residents to access data-rich services, but also affects the ability of businesses to keep pace in the competitive, global 21st century market.
Conservatives are committing £5 billion to support spreading broadband to the hardest-to-reach 20 per cent of the country.
Whether by enabling businesses to reach new customers or by helping parents with the weekly shop, investing in better local broadband is creating jobs and making daily life easier.
In fact, this latest investment is expected to benefit 5.6 million small and medium sized businesses, improving their productivity and ensuring they are not held back by poor infrastructure.
Small and medium sized businesses account for 60 per cent of private sector employment and over 50 per cent of business revenues. Even more than residential consumers, they require fast and reliable broadband.
Investment in our broadband infrastructure is vital, not just to boost growth, but to make areas attractive places to live and work, as well as to rejuvenate communities that feel left behind.
We want everyone in the UK to benefit from world-class connectivity no matter where they live, work or travel. We are committing £5 billion to deliver gigabit-capable broadband for all the UK, including the hardest to reach areas – helping communities across the country to prosper.
Gigabit broadband is faster, more reliable, and more affordable to operate than copper-based networks. Gigabit broadband is 40 times faster than existing ‘superfast’ broadband, benefitting families across the country and improving business productivity.
We will ensure no part of this country is left behind and that no business is held back due to poor infrastructure, making life easier for families, boosting productivity and raising living standards.
Locally, the Fastershire project is doing great work to deliver high speed broadband to the Forest of Dean and across Gloucestershire.
I recently visited Tibberton to see the introduction of fast fibre broadband to the premises in that area – so people can sign up for a fast fibre connection to their homes that’s been put in by a partnership between Gigaclear and Fastershire, which is supported by Gloucestershire County Council.
A number of other communities have been covered as well.
I will continue to work with Gigaclear and Fastershire to ensure that the rollout is as comprehensive as possible.
What’s more, the Government is closing in on a £1 billion deal with the mobile phone industry to banish rural not-spots.
The UK’s mobile network operators put forward a £530 million proposal for a Shared Rural Network with the potential for it to be matched by £500 million investment from Government.
The move will bring 4G coverage to 95 per cent of the UK by 2025 and be a huge boost for consumers. More people in rural areas will benefit from the speed and efficiency of services on the go - from booking travel, shopping online or speaking to friends and family.
This would be a world-first deal with EE, O2, Three and Vodafone investing in a network of new and existing phone masts they would all share. Consumers will be able to rely on their own provider’s network to use their mobile phones wherever they are.
It is not yet a done deal, but I want to see industry move quickly so that the Government can reach a final agreement next year.
I know that connectivity is an issue that is important to people in the Forest, and that while a lot of us have seen our services improve dramatically in recent years, there is still more to do and I will continue to push for better broadband and connectivity for all of my constituents.