Broadband in rural areas - Minister responds
9 Feb 2002
Although some two thirds of the population now have the option to use broadband (high performance Internet), most people in rural areas of the constituency cannot get this service and there is great uncertainty about when - if ever - it will be available. Douglas Alexander MP, the e-Minister, has now replied (on 6th February) to a speech and follow up letter from Sir George on this matter:
"There is likely to [be] a small part of the country in which these technologies [ADSL] do not provide broadband access. In these regions it may be that satellite or other new technologies provide a solution. However, I do not feel it would be in the interests of a competitive market to mark out certain areas as beyond the reach of specific technologies. Instead, by creating a virtuous circle of demand and supply, with additional help in certain areas, we aim to develop the market across the UK. We will continue to work with everyone who has an interest to ensure that our strategy takes into account their needs.
You mention that broadband should be a universal service. This is certainly an option we should keep under review. At the moment, any introduction of a Universal Service Obligation (USO) in relation to broadband is likely to hinder competition by raising the costs to new entrants. Oftel are responsible for monitoring the USO, taking into account the appropriate European legislation. They will monitor the situation in light of the rapidly changing expectations of the rapidly changing expectations of customers. Should we reach a stage where broadband services are used by the majority and considered essential to full social and economic inclusion, extending the USO to include higher bandwidth services might then be appropriate."

In effect, this confirms the uncertainty that faces people and companies in rural areas, including farmers who are being urged by Government to make more use of new technologies. Sir George is in touch with local authorities in the constituency to pursue ways of extending broadband locally, and will also continue to follow this up with the Government, OFTEL and suppliers.

Click the link at the foot of this page for the full text of the e-Minister's letter.
Letter from the e-Minister, Douglas Alexander MP
Letter from the e-Minister, Douglas Alexander MP
Second page of letter
Second page of letter
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