Sir George is working on behalf of constituents to secure better availability of broadband (high performance Internet access) across his constituency. A letter from the e-Minister, Douglas Alexander MP, while helpful in setting out the position, confirms that there is no certainty as to whether - let alone when - people, companies and other organisations in any particular rural area will be able to use broadband. Sir George continues to pursue this question:

<blockquote>"I am in touch with the local authorities in the constituency about their own efforts to secure better broadband access for our rural communities, and will continue to pursue this with the Government, the regulatory authorities and suppliers."</blockquote>

Below is the full text of the Minister's letter, which was in response to Sir George's speech on this matter at a Parliamentary seminar, and his follow up with the Minister.

Department of Trade and Industry, 6 February 2002

Dear Sir George

Thank you for your letter of 21 January, and your kind comments on my contribution to the discussion at the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology event. You mentioned that you were concerned over the provision of broadband to rural areas.

I agree with you that this is an important issue. The Government strategy to make the broadband market more extensive and competitive includes measures to extend broadband networks further. We have established the 30m fund for RDAs and the devolved administrations to develop schemes to extend access to new customers. We are working with industry to develop ways of sharing infrastructure in order to make the cost of rollout lower. We are also examining - through the Office of Government Commerce - how we might use government procurement of
ICT services more effectively.

Around 66% of the population is now able to access broadband at affordable rates. Uptake, however, is still low in comparison to other countries. BT have made no commitment to upgrade further exchanges to enable ADSL services to be carried, but we should remember that in a competitive market rollout might come from other sources, such as Unbundled Local Loops, cable or wireless.

There is likely to a small part of the country in which these technologies 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.

Thank you again for your interest in the subject. I hope these comments are helpful.

Warm regards,

Douglas Alexander

Copyright Sir George Young Bt. 2015