On Thursday Morning in Parliament, one of the first short debates that took place was under the title of “Broadband and Digital Connectivity: Rural Areas” and a number of MPs asked similar questions. The Government Department was the DCMS and the Minister who was involved was Matt Warman who is the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. The first of the MPs to speak was Sally-Ann Hart, the MP for Hastings and Rye and she asked “What steps he is taking to improve digital infrastructure and connectivity in rural areas.” The initial response that Matt made to all of the MPs was
The Government are making huge progress on our ambition to deliver gigabit broadband across the whole country. Only last week, Openreach increased its planned investment target and it has set itself a target of 25 million premises to connect in the next five years. Some 40% of UK premises can already access gigabit broadband, and we expect that to rise to 60% by the end of this year. That is on top of the shared rural network commitment that will see mobile coverage increase across the whole country.
So Sally-Ann Hart then asked her follow up question which was
A number of rural areas have been recategorised as urban for the purpose of broadband community vouchers. While the majority of premises will retain their eligibility under the new voucher conditions, premises in an area where Ofcom believes a gigabit-capable network is likely to be built commercially—including Ofcom area 2—will not be eligible for a voucher. Does my hon. Friend agree that that lack of certainty risks villages such as Three Oaks in my beautiful Hastings and Rye constituency ending up being missed out? What steps can he take to ensure that this cannot happen?
And the response from Matt Warman was
It is of course welcome news that a commercial roll-out will reach more of the country than ever, but my hon. Friend raises an important point. This Government will make sure that no part of the country is left behind on that roll-out, which is why there is flexibility in the voucher scheme that she describes and why Project Gigabit is there to scoop up all the remaining premises. I am happy to discuss the villages that she mentions in person as well.
So perhaps the numerous communities that are facing the gaps in this sort of provision will now be able to send a question to the DCMS Department to get an clear indication when their part of the country will be responded to?