Superfast Broadband — [Mark Pritchard in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:30 pm on 24th June 2015.

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Photo of Matt Warman Matt Warman Conservative, Boston and Skegness 2:30 pm, 24th June 2015

I am delighted that my hon. Friend reminds me of the variation in BT’s performance even within Lincolnshire, and it is crucial that we discuss that type of variation today.

The next point to consider is that when we are talking about moving from 95% coverage to 99%, BT is by no means the only game in town. In other parts of the country, contracts have already been signed with companies such as Gigaclear, and I hope that Members who ask themselves how their own counties can get the best out of BT will look at those other contractors, which have been able to remind BT that there are other options available, because their existence sometimes seems to produce a marked improvement in BT’s performance.

The other issue affecting our move from 95% to 99% coverage remains the provision of 4G and subsequently 5G; I think it is the first time that they have been mentioned in this debate. Many Members have applied to speak in the debate, and the two questions that I would like them to ask themselves are, “How do we get the best out of the contracts that we have already?” and “How do we apply maximum pressure to best fund the roll-out, which will be expensive but more than worth while, to go from 95% to 99%?” I contend that a big part of that movement from 95% coverage to 99% should be not only fibre broadband but 4G and 5G, and there is also a place for satellite broadband.

I have a final point to make, which is that BT’s relationship with BT Openreach is currently being considered. I know that there is a range of views in the House about BT and Openreach. I urge only that the competition authorities seriously consider whether the best interests of the consumer are being served by BT’s current relationship with Openreach. I look forward to other people expressing different views during the debate.

I will close by saying that when we talk endlessly about the vital importance of infrastructure, it is often roads and railways that we emphasise, but when I talk to constituents it is almost always broadband that comes up as the most important infrastructure project for them, and they would like to see faster speeds, including in their own houses.