MP calls for closure of “digital divide”

The MP for Arundel & South Downs, Nick Herbert, is calling for the digital divide between rural and urban areas to be closed and for the “unsatisfactory monopoly” held by BT over superfast broadband delivery to be broken up.

Speaking in a debate on connectivity for rural areas, Herbert welcomed the plans for 95% rollout of superfast broadband by 2017 but said that he was concerned for the remaining 5% which would largely be centred in rural areas.

He said: “We have to look ahead and test whether what is being done will be sufficient to ensure access for those in rural areas who will not benefit from the programme.”

Herbert’s constituency is currently ranked 564th out of 650 in terms of superfast broadband coverage, with under half of constituents currently lacking coverage.

He criticised the policy of superfast rollout as urban areas are prioritised over rural parts. Herbert warned that there is a “danger that public money is being used to close the gap in areas where it would have provided the service anyway, and the remaining 5 per cent or 10 per cent is not being covered.”

He added that BT Openreach needs to be split from the main company and possibly divided to encourage increased competition across the broadband rollout scheme as he described the current situation as an “unsatisfactory monopoly”.

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