Superfast Broadband: Universal Coverage

Oral Answers to Questions — Culture, Media and Sport – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 9th February 2017.

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Photo of Stephen Kinnock Stephen Kinnock Labour, Aberavon 12:00 am, 9th February 2017

What assessment the Government have made of the potential merits of providing universal superfast broadband coverage.

Photo of Matthew Hancock Matthew Hancock Minister of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport) (Digital Policy)

We strongly support the roll-out of superfast broadband, which is on track to be available to 95% of premises by the end of the year.

Photo of Stephen Kinnock Stephen Kinnock Labour, Aberavon

Almost one in three homes in my Aberavon constituency have broadband speeds of below 10 megabits a second. Moreover, I recently conducted a survey of my constituents in which 44% of respondents reported repeated loss of broadband service. Does the Minister agree that the future growth prospects of Aberavon will be severely constrained if this situation continues?

Photo of Matthew Hancock Matthew Hancock Minister of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport) (Digital Policy)

I will look into the figures that the hon. Gentleman mentions. Thinkbroadband, the independent body that publishes figures on this, thinks that the number of properties in Aberavon to which superfast broadband is available is much higher and, indeed, ahead of the national average. There has been a huge effort to roll out superfast broadband but, of course, there is a difference between something being available and it being taken up. It is important to ensure that people take up broadband when it is available.

Photo of Neil Parish Neil Parish Chair, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, Chair, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Sub-Committee

The hardest-to-reach rural and isolated areas across the country have still not been reached by broadband. I urge the Government to have a flexible approach—perhaps using a voucher system in some cases—and to use all technologies to get broadband out to those isolated areas.

Photo of Chi Onwurah Chi Onwurah Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Industrial Strategy)

When they were designing the superfast broadband tender, the Government were warned that they were effectively entrenching BT’s monopoly. In designing the universal service obligation, they now appear to be making exactly the same mistake again. Will the Minister commit to delivering choice in our broadband networks?

Photo of Matthew Hancock Matthew Hancock Minister of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport) (Digital Policy)

The premise of the hon. Lady’s question is wrong. Many companies are now delivering into the Broadband Delivery UK scheme. In fact, companies that did not even exist a few years ago are now delivering superfast broadband—and much faster—right across the country.