Do you remember when mobile phones were like breeze blocks and dial-up connnections to the internet made that bizarre screaming noise? Now I find it hard to imagine life without smartphones and broadband, being able to collect emails on the move and let people know when – inevitably – I’m running late.
Broadband is no longer a luxury, it’s essential for day to day life. Businesses rely on the internet to operate, families use it to stay in touch, students for research and the days of TV coming down an aerial are surely numbered when you can watch what you want when you want over fast broadband.
In this area we’ve seen big improvements in broadband. By this time next year 90% of homes and businesses in my constituency should be getting speeds of at least 10 Megabits per second. The Government’s £1.7 billion investment in upgrading the old copper telephone wires to fibre optic has helped 8,432 homes and businesses get connected since 2015. However parts of Kent are being left behind. Only 22% of homes and businesses in Headcorn are getting superfast speeds and 21% in Harrietsham and Lenham – making them among the worst connected places in Kent. Those areas also have patchy mobile phone coverage, which makes life difficult and holds back economic growth.
So I’m pleased the Government has introduced a Universal Service Obligation. This will mean that every home and business in the UK can request a 10Mbps connection, putting broadband on a similar footing to basic services like water and electricity. An additional £1 billion is being invested in digital infrastructure, and this week MPs vote on a bill to introduce £60 million of tax incentives for telecoms companies to upgrade their fibre optic networks.
I’m also meeting the Chief Executive of EE today to discuss improving mobile phone signal in the area. Sometimes a letter from an MP can help solve a connection problem for an individual home or business, so if your broadband is slow or your mobile signal is bad, get in touch with me and I will do what I can to help.