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MP on Broadband Issues

Margaret Ritchie has urged the British Government to radically rethink its approach to broadband provision in rural areas. The SDLP MP for South Down said that the speeds received in some of the rural parts of her constituency put businesses at a distinct disadvantage to their urban competitors. She said: David Cameron and the British Government proudly boast about the success of their ‘digital revolution’ bringing faster broadband to businesses in Britain. But if he visited many of the local businesses in South Down he would be put to shame by about rural communities like mine have been abandoned and are struggling to secure any effective broadband connection putting them at a significant,

competitive disadvantage. Ms Ritchie spoke of the level of isolation felt by rural communities with slow broadband services and implored Westminster to react: “Rural communities already experience significant isolation. That is being compounded by widespread digital dereliction where businesses, schools and homeowners struggle to reach even basic levels of broadband speed and connectivity. While British businesses soar at speeds of over 30Mbps, many of my constituency can’t even reach 2Mbps. The latest OFCOM data confirms that 10Mbps is the basic level required to meet the demands of the average family. So how are our businesses in South Down or in other rural areas of the North supposed to compete?” She added: “This is about more than surfing the internet or checking Facebook. With tendering processes largely exclusively online now and as we move to ‘digital by default’ assumption for CAP applications, our rural industries are being undermined and marginalized. It cannot continue.”

Ms Ritchie has called for legislative commitments to be put in place to ensure that broadband service providers can no longer get away with paying lip service to customers in rural areas. She said: “I’m calling for an enhanced Universal Service Obligation that will be guarantee a right to be connected to Broadband of at least 10Mbps. The current proposals create only a ‘right to request to be connected’ which falls far short of the standard needed to tackle digital dereliction which is damaging large sections of our economy. The Government must step up its efforts and look at alternative means of producing effective and affordable broadband in rural communities.’


12th January 2016

Newry Democrat