Broadband in Wales — [Steve McCabe in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:30 pm on 6th July 2016.

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Photo of Mark Williams Mark Williams Liberal Democrat, Ceredigion 2:30 pm, 6th July 2016

There we are. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will shed some light on some of those unanswered questions a little later. I thank him for that intervention.

Communication with individual constituents is sometimes less satisfactory. Too many of my constituents have had template responses from BT and Openreach saying that they have absolutely no plans for the foreseeable future to improve the state of the broadband connection. That seems to be the case for large parts of the county. Even in some of our larger communities, such as Lampeter, which is an important university town, connections are at best poor. For many of the small businesses that I have visited there, the No. 1 request is for something to be done to improve broadband speeds and provision. Options for businesses, although an improvement over those for some of my rural communities, are sometimes limited.

For struggling small businesses, the quality of the broadband connection can often be the difference between keeping afloat and going under. That seems like a dramatic statement, but our reliance on broadband and communication, and—this is where that rural point comes in again—the fragility of the rural economy and some of our rural businesses mean that it is very important that they get their marketing right and, for some, their internet booking systems right. I have in mind specifically some of our tourism businesses. For many growing businesses, the inability to invest in a fast and more reliable connection that is not extortionately priced can be a stumbling block. I am sure that the Minister will agree that the opportunities for our economy of getting broadband right are immeasurable. For the rural economy, that would mean a great deal more potential being realised.