The Countryside Alliance has welcomed the publication of the Digital Economy Bill today (5 July) by the government, which should secure the future of broadband in rural areas. This Bill is intended to “modernise our climate for enterprise, making sure Britain remains at the forefront of the global 21st century economy so that our businesses continue to create jobs and our families remain financially secure”.

The Countryside Alliance has long recognised that high-speed broadband and mobile connectivity are essential services alongside water, electricity and gas; but are nowhere near as available in rural areas as is in urban areas. Nearly half of all premises (1.5 million premises) in rural areas across the UK still receive speeds of less than 10Mbit/s and one in five rural premises are unable to receive speeds higher than 5Mbit/s.

The Bill promises to give every household a legal right to a fast broadband connection, help telecommunications providers build the infrastructure needed for faster broadband and better mobile networks and allow consumers to be automatically compensated for poor service.

Countryside Alliance head of policy Sarah Lee said: “We hope that the commitment in the Digital Economy Bill to deliver a Universal Service Obligation (USO) of 10Mbit/s will ensure that much needed digital connectivity is achieved in rural areas. Continued poor connectivity in the countryside represents a huge missed opportunity for economic development and must be addressed as a priority. We now look forward to working with the government to ensure this much promised connectivity is delivered.”

Full details of the Bill can be found here; http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/2016-2017/0045/cbill_2016-20170045_en_1.htm