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CLA says Conservative broadband pledge is good but misses the point

[Tuesday 2 Febuary 2010]

The CLA has welcomed the Conservative’s pledge to introduce superfast broadband for all by 2017 - but said the UK needs an “adequate and effective” broadband speed to every home much sooner.

The rural economy experts supported Shadow Chancellor George Osborne’s announcement to make “changes to the regulatory framework” to fund broadband – while calling on the Government to act now to increase broadband speeds in rural areas.

CLA President William Worsley said: “It is fundamental to the economic well-being of rural Britain that adequate and effective broadband is available to every home now – rather than having to wait until 2017. By then, many rural businesses will either have gone to the wall or relocated to areas where fast broadband speeds are available.

“Mr Osborne says that in the 19th Century the railways were built, in the 20th Century the motorways were built, and now in the 21st Century a superfast broadband network needs to be built. The CLA agrees with this sentiment while pointing out that before we had motorways we had a basic road network. This is currently not the case for broadband.”

Douglas Chalmers, Director CLA North, added: “The point being missed is that the Conservatives are still only talking about ‘most homes’ and ‘within seven years’.

“How many times do we have to say that every home and business should have the ability to be linked to affordable effective broadband - and now?

The Finns live in a more rugged, extreme and sparsely populated country than ours, yet have already established access to broadband for all as a legal right. Broadband should be a universal service provision. Not having it is a blight on business, education and social inclusion, and the very future of rural communities are being threatened.

The CLA also says that the Conservatives’ suggestion of using funds from the licence fee is justified because content-rich communication from media organisations such as the BBC is driving the need for greater broadband speeds. However, this investment and the current plans for a 50p broadband levy on telephone lines will not provide anywhere near the resources needed.

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