Broadband

Oral Answers to Questions — Culture, Media and Sport – in the House of Commons at 9:30 am on 5th September 2013.

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Photo of Mark Lazarowicz Mark Lazarowicz Labour, Edinburgh North and Leith 9:30 am, 5th September 2013

What steps she is taking to improve the quality of broadband provision in urban areas.

Photo of Ed Vaizey Ed Vaizey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Under our super-connected cities programme, we have made £150 million available to support broadband in cities across the country, including Edinburgh. It is one of five cities piloting the voucher scheme, which will eventually reach 22 cities.

Photo of Mark Lazarowicz Mark Lazarowicz Labour, Edinburgh North and Leith

Edinburgh is indeed one of those cities, and that support from the Government is welcome, but there are households right in the city centre that, under present plans, will not get superfast broadband because, on the one hand, BT says that providing them with it would not be commercial and, on the other hand, they are regarded as areas in which it can be developed commercially so they do not get aid under EU state aid rules. Will the Minister get involved and ensure that all households in urban areas get superfast broadband and are not left out, as some of my constituents will be?

Photo of Ed Vaizey Ed Vaizey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

We are determined that by the end of 2015 every house will have at least 2 megabits broadband, but I will certainly work with the hon. Gentleman to ensure that if there are pockets of Edinburgh that will not get access to superfast broadband, either commercially or under the super-connected cities programme, we will look at creating a solution.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Chair, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee

What assessment has the Minister made of the conclusion that the Government will fail to reach their urban targets for rolling out superfast broadband and that rural broadband speeds will remain woefully slow?

Photo of Ed Vaizey Ed Vaizey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

My conclusion is that rural broadband speeds will increase considerably. We are on target to reach 88% of the country with superfast broadband by the end of 2015, and I fully expect us to reach 90% in early 2016. We will be reaching 10,000 homes a month by next month, and I fully expect that pace to continue.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Deputy Leader, Liberal Democrats

May I remind the Minister that literally four miles from here, in Rotherhithe and Surrey Docks, in the capital city, there are still areas that are have woefully slow broadband, to the disadvantage of a very dynamic community? Will he look again to see whether we can speed up both BT and the programme so that the capital city, like the rest of the country, can have the broadband it needs to be the most efficient and effective that it can be?

Photo of Ed Vaizey Ed Vaizey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I will happily work to ensure that for the capital. There will always be pockets of slow broadband. I was interested to read recently about a couple from Cornwall who went to visit Google in silicon valley and found that the superfast broadband speed in the hotel was slower than it was in Cornwall, which is the result of our programme.

Photo of Ann McKechin Ann McKechin Labour, Glasgow North

If she will publish maps showing which areas of the country are not expected to be covered by broadband by 2015.

Photo of Ed Vaizey Ed Vaizey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

The Government are encouraging all broadband projects to publish maps showing their expected coverage of superfast broadband, and I hope that the Scottish Government will do likewise.

Photo of Ann McKechin Ann McKechin Labour, Glasgow North

I am grateful to the Minister for his reply and hope that he is successful in his efforts to persuade the Scottish Government to release the information. Social landlords in Glasgow tell me that many areas in the city lack any basic infrastructure. Given that access to basic broadband is increasingly a matter of social justice, does the Minister agree that the public should automatically know where not-spots are located so that they can hold Governments and providers to account?

Photo of Ed Vaizey Ed Vaizey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

We have asked local authorities to make this information available where it is appropriate. The plans are set out and they may change, but each local authority has to make the decision by itself. I will happily meet the hon. Lady to discuss the provision of broadband in social housing in Glasgow and work with her to see what we can do to increase speeds there.

Photo of Julian Smith Julian Smith Conservative, Skipton and Ripon

North Yorkshire has recently published its maps and is very close to getting to 95% coverage across the county. We need a couple of million pounds more from Government. Will the Minister use his charm and persuasive ability to urge Broadband Delivery UK to give it to us?

D

It would be nice if we could have a mobile phone signal, too.

Submitted by Diane

Photo of Ed Vaizey Ed Vaizey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

As Opposition Members stress repeatedly, it is important that we ensure that we get value for money. If my hon. Friend wants to make the case to me, I will listen. North Yorkshire is already three months ahead of schedule, and that is symptomatic of the programme, which is beating its targets all the time.

Photo of Meg Hillier Meg Hillier Labour, Hackney South and Shoreditch

I represent Shoreditch, which has a reputation for being a very connected, tech-focused area of London, yet I am inundated with complaints from businesses and residents about the problems of physical connectivity, the time it takes to make the connection, and particularly about the virtual monopoly of BT Openreach, the charges it makes, and the service it provides to businesses such as Perseverance Works. Will the Minister meet me to discuss this and see what can be done to make sure that we have proper connectivity in Hackney?

Photo of Ed Vaizey Ed Vaizey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Of course I will meet the hon. Lady to discuss it. However, as regards BT’s so-called monopoly, it is important to stress that BT has the lowest market share of any incumbent provider in any major European country. BT Openreach is open to all providers, such as TalkTalk and Sky. We have some of the lowest broadband prices in Europe, and we should celebrate that.