Parliamentary Committees and Public Enquiries
Government fails to reduce urban rural gap in broadband and mobile
A Report from the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee has highlighted the continuing digital divide between urban and rural areas.
- Read the conclusions and recommendations: An Update on Rural Connectivity
- Read the summary: An Update on Rural Connectivity
- Read the full report: An Update on Rural Connectivity
Government has not grasped extent of problem
The divide between urban and rural areas, as well as between rural towns and sparser rural settlements, continues to marginalise communities and be the cause of frustration.
Despite significant improvement in both rural broadband and mobile coverage in recent years, it has only barely kept up with increasing demand. Poor connectivity continues to hinder rural businesses and is preventing people from engaging with online public services the rest of the country take for granted.
The Government has recognised that connectivity must be treated as a utility with its introduction of the broadband Universal Service Obligation (USO) and has outlined a commitment to ensure the divide between urban and rural areas is not exacerbated through various funding initiatives.
However, given the continued challenges posed to rural businesses and communities, the Committee is not confident that the Government has fully grasped the extent of the problem, the scale of the challenge, or the wider cost of poor connectivity for the rural economy.
Committee welcomes ambition of new Prime Minister but is sceptical about target
This Report states that the current specification for the Universal Service Obligation is inadequate and lacks ambition for rural areas. It is not truly “universal” and its minimum speed of 10Mbps will be obsolete soon after introduction.
This Report also welcomes the ambition of the new Prime Minister to deliver universal full-fibre broadband by 2025 but is sceptical as to whether this new target will be achieved without potentially controversial reforms.
In addition, this Report recommends a “rural roaming” solution is needed to tackle partial “not-spots” in mobile coverage in the absence of a forthcoming agreement between Government and Mobile Network Operators.
Neil Parish MP, the Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, yesterday said:
“Despite improvements in coverage since our predecessor’s Report, our inquiry has shown that poor broadband and mobile data services continue to marginalise rural communities, particularly those living in hard to reach areas.
Digital connectivity is now regarded by many as an essential utility, with many in rural areas struggling to live a modern lifestyle without it. There continues to be a lot of frustration felt by those living or working in rural areas– and rightly so.
We support the Government’s commitment to the broadband USO and an “outside-in” approach to full fibre roll out, ensuring that rural areas are prioritised in the future. We also welcomed the Prime Minister's commitment to achieve universal full-fibre broadband by 2025.
However, the Committee is not confident that the Government has fully grasped the scale of the challenge currently faced and is sceptical as to whether the Government will meet these ambitious new targets without considerable and potentially controversial reforms.
In addition, on the eve of 5G mobile data services, people in rural areas will increasingly feel like second class citizens if they can’t access 4G or even 3G services. Rural roaming must be seen as a solution, if no voluntary proposal is agreed between mobile network operators and Government.
The problem of poor connectivity in rural areas has gone on for far too long. With so many of our public services now delivered primarily online, it is imperative that this problem is resolved and that rural communities are granted the same digital access as the majority of their urban counterparts.”
Latest News from
Parliamentary Committees and Public Enquiries
Business and Planning Bill illustrates challenging of fast-track law-making10/07/2020 16:20:00
The Constitution Committee publishes its ninth report of the session on the Business and Planning Bill.
BEIS Committee to hear pitches for future Committee inquiries10/07/2020 15:20:00
On Thursday morning, the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee will hear a series of pitches as the case is made for their chosen business, energy policy or climate change issue to be investigated by the BEIS Committee over the course of this Parliament. The ‘dragons-den’ style session format follows a call (in March) for the public to submit their own ideas for future Committee inquiries.
UK still has no coherent strategy for engaging with Africa10/07/2020 14:20:00
The International Relations and Defence Committee publishes its report on The UK and Sub-Saharan Africa: prosperity, peace and development co-operation.
Insufficient time allowed for effective treaty scrutiny says Lords report10/07/2020 13:20:00
The International Agreements Sub-Committee have today published a report aimed at addressing the ‘deficiencies of Parliament’s treaty scrutiny process’, including suggestions that the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 (CRAG) does not provide enough time to conduct effective scrutiny.
England faces “serious risk of running out of water within 20 years”10/07/2020 12:20:00
In a report published yesterday, the Public Accounts Committee says all the bodies responsible for the UK’s water supply – Defra, Ofwat and the Environment Agency – have “taken their eye off the ball” and must take urgent action now to ensure a reliable water supply in the years ahead.
EU Committee criticises lack of engagement by Northern Ireland Office09/07/2020 15:33:00
The Lords EU Committee has written to Rt Hon Brandon Lewis MP, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, expressing disappointment at the lack of engagement from his department in support of the Committee's scrutiny of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland.
COVID-19 Rapid Summary: Therapeutics09/07/2020 13:33:00
The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee is producing rapid summaries of oral evidence sessions, aimed at providing the public with the latest information on the Science of COVID-19.
Committee demands detailed plan for PPE from DHSC within 2 months, ahead of potential second Covid wave08/07/2020 15:33:00
In a report published today, Tuesday 7 July 2020, the Public Accounts Committee warns that Government does not have either a clear understanding of the equipment needed for clinical and care workers, or how to distribute it – particularly in the more fragmented care sector.
Time to fix the failures in food, says Lords Committee07/07/2020 15:33:00
The UK’s food system is failing, putting the health of the population, and of the planet, at risk.