Sue has today written to the newly appointed Minister for Digital, Margot James MP, asking for an update on the Government’s rollout of superfast broadband in Cumbria.
In her letter to the Minister, Sue said:
“Congratulations on your recent appointment as Digital Minister. I’m writing with regard to the provision of superfast broadband in my constituency.
“I recently met with representatives of the farming community who raised with me the issue of lack of access to superfast broadband for rural areas in Cumbria.
“During DCMS Questions on 21st January 2016, I asked one of your predecessors, Ed Vaizey,
‘Connecting Cumbria promised my constituents superfast broadband, but this has not happened quickly enough or to the original programme, which has denied my constituents access to vital services. What assurance can the Minister give that, under the universal service obligation, they will be provided with a minimum of 10 megabits per second by 2020?’
“The Minister replied:
‘I am pleased to say that the Cumbrian programme is going extremely well. About £20 million of Government money has been invested, and in the hon. Lady’s constituency we will reach 92% by the end of the programme, which is a fantastic result, considering that, commercially, less than half of her constituents would have got superfast broadband.’
“Subsequently, on 9th June 2016, I asked the Minister:
‘Earlier this week, I received an email from the Minister, which helpfully informed me that 3,198 premises in my constituency—that is 8% or nearly one in 12—are not currently planned to be connected to superfast broadband. What has the Minister got to say to the sizeable number of my constituents who face the prospect of never being able to access an adequate broadband connection?’
“The Minister then responded:
‘I would say to her constituents that we said that we would get to 90% by the end of last year, which we achieved, and that we would get to 95% by the end of 2017, so we have been completely transparent about what we are planning to do. We are now consulting on a USO precisely to help those constituents of the hon. Lady who are not in the rural broadband programme. […] She should congratulate the Government because the way the contracts have been constructed means that almost £300 million is coming back, so we are going to go further than 95% and reach more of her constituents.’
“In a subsequent response to Neil Carmichael, the Minister then said:
‘We are moving as fast as we can to deliver superfast broadband, and we intend to reach 95% of the country by the end of 2017 and to have superfast broadband for everyone by 2020.’
“I would appreciate it if you were able to provide me with an update on the situation in my constituency, in terms of the current availability of access to superfast broadband and 10 megabits per second connections, and the progress being made towards the commitment to universal superfast broadband access by 2020.”