Calls for Chancellor to invest in Isles broadband infrastructure

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More than 100 cross-party MPs and Peers – including Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil – have written an open letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osbourne MP, urging him to continue investing in fixed and mobile broadband as part of the Spending Review and in the future.

The letter was co-ordinated by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Broadband and Digital Communication, which is co-chaired by Matt Warman MP and Ian Liddell-Grainger MP, and follows a recent Backbench Business debate on the matter.

The signatories welcomed the Prime Minister’s announcement of a Universal Service Obligation for broadband of at least 10Mbps, but highlighted that 17 per cent of the UK still does not currently have the option of a superfast broadband connection, and even worse, some 500,000 – including many communities in the islands – lack even basic broadband.

They also note the social importance of access to broadband, which in some areas can be the difference between isolation and access to vital services, and call for parallel investment into digital skills, which are essential for everyone from jobseekers to pensioners to get by in the modern age.

In the letter, the Parliamentarians say: “We urge you to consider the importance of continued state investment in both mobile and fixed broadband infrastructure as part of the Spending Review, so that the digital divide does not widen and deepen, and so that we can provide the same digital opportunities to everyone in the UK, regardless of where they live.

“Continued investment will ensure that we will not split the superconnected from those for whom the 21st century economy is another country. We urge you to invest in creating one digital nation.”

Matt Warman MP, APPG Co-Chair, said: “I was delighted to secure such strong support for the letter, from across the main political parties and from both Houses of Parliament.

“While the Prime Minister’s recent announcement on higher broadband speeds is welcome news, it is very important that investment into broadband infrastructure and digital skills continues.

“I hope the Chancellor will take our comments on board and continue to consider the importance of broadband services in this and future spending reviews, so that we can ensure families, communities and businesses across the country have access the good quality internet needed for a modern economy.”