Faster broadband and better mobile coverage

My aims

  • Superfast broadband access for every home and business in Faversham and Mid-Kent
  • Extension of the Broadband Voucher Scheme for Kent businesses
  • Make sure all new developments build-in superfast broadband infrastructure
  • Keep up pressure on BT to deliver on their commitment to providing superfast coverage to 91% of Kent by December 2015 and 95% by 2017
  • Better mobile coverage across the constituency

 

Progress

21 December 2016: I receive a letter from the Head of Planning at Swale Borough Council confirming that all new builds will have the necessary infrastructure to support superfast broadband.  

28 November 2016: I vote for the Digital Economy Bill which will put broadband on the same footing as other essential services. Read more here

22 November 2016: The Government announces £1 billion investment in gold standard broadband. Read more here

10 May 2016: Recieved an update from Culture Minister Ed Vaizey about the progress of the Universal Service Obligation

14 April 2016: Responded to the public consultation over the proposed Universal Service Obligation for broadband. Read my contribution here

25 February 2016: Review of the broadband market published by regulator Ofcom, recommending that BT open up its network to competitors. Read more here

13 January 2016: Met Culture minister Ed Vaizey for an update on the roll-out of superfast broadband in Faversham and Mid Kent

December 2015: Satellite subsidy scheme announced, making £350 vouchers available to houses and businesses with connections slower than 2Mbps towards the costs of installing satellite broadband. Find out how to apply here

7 November 2015: Prime Minister announced broadband Universal Service Obligation. Read more here

4 November 2015: Met the CEO of Openreach to hear about the progress they're making in rolling out fibre broadband

12 October 2015: I raised the idea of extending funding for the Broadband Connection Voucher Scheme in a Commons debate. Read my contribution here

2 October 2015: I received an update the Culture Minister Ed Vaizey. 944 premises got connected to superfast broadband in the three months to June. Read more here

28 September 2015: Swale Borough Council responded to my enquiries confirming that all new developments should now include fast internet access. James Freeman, the council’s head of planning said: “I would be expecting to impose conditions to require such provision in the future unless there are exceptional reasons for not doing so”. This is Policy CP6 of the council’s Local Plan. Read the plan here

4 September 2015: Meeting with Making Kent Quicker for a briefing on the state of the Broadband rollout in Kent

 

Background

Superfast broadband is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. Whether you’re running a business, staying in touch with family, doing homework or paying your bills, a quick and reliable internet connection is essential. But parts of Kent, particularly rural areas, are getting left behind.

In its 2015 manifesto the Conservative Party committed to delivering download speeds of 24Mbps to 95% of the UK by the end of 2017. Since then the Prime Minister has announced that access to at least 10Mbps should be put on a similar footing to other basic services like water and electricity. Under this Universal Service Obligation people will have the right to request a broadband connection, no matter where they live.

Making Kent Quicker, part of Kent County Council, is working with BT to roll-out superfast broadband. It estimates that 91% of places in Kent should have it by December 2015 (“Phase 1”) and 95% should have it by the end of 2017 (“Phase 2”).

Of the 41,180 businesses and homes in my constituency, 25,827 have access to superfast broadband through commercial channels. A further 7,323 have been connected through the publicly supported programme and 2,019 more will have it by 2018.

But that still leaves 6,011 businesses and homes without superfast broadband access, so I'm keeping the pressure up to make sure these places don't get forgotten about.

In December 2015, the Government launched a satellite subsidy scheme, whereby houses and businesses with connections slower than 2Mbps can get £350 towards the up-front costs of installing satellite broadband.

There are also thousands of new homes being built in the area. New building regulations came into force in May 2016 which require all new builds to have the necessary infrastructure for broadband. This is excellent news, and I have written to local councils making sure that all new development proposals in the constituency do include access to superfast broadband.

The Government also created a £40 million Broadband Connection Voucher Scheme. Before being wound up in October 2015, it allowed small and medium-sized businesses in cities to apply for grants of up to £3000 to cover the costs of installing faster broadband. Kent gained access after successfully arguing that the populations of Kent’s towns were equal to a city. The scheme has been very successful across Britain and over a hundred Kent businesses received funding. I lobbied the Treasury to ensure the scheme was fully funded.

Phase 3 of the Government’s programme is exploring ways to take superfast broadband to the ‘final 5%’ – the hardest-to-reach areas. At the moment no one is quite sure how this is to be done, but £10 million has been invested in eight pilot schemes which are using innovative new technology to get remote areas connected. 

News

I vote for broadband bill

This week I voted in Parliament for the Digital Economy Bill, which will introduce a new Universal Service Obligation for fast broadband. Currently, 90% of households and businesses have access to fast broadband, and a further 5% will have access by the end of 2017.

£1 billion to be invested in Broadband

The UK is already a world leader in superfast broadband coverage, but the country is falling behind on the rollout of full-fibre. Full-fibre is the future of broadband, helping people to share ever-more digital content faster.