The Countryside Alliance welcomes the publication of the interim National Infrastructure Assessment today (13 October) and the spotlight it shines on our digital connectivity.

This is the first Assessment published by the National Infrastructure Commission, which was established in 2015 to provide independent advice to Government on long-term infrastructure priorities.

The Assessment recognises the importance of digital connectivity and the need to remain competitive in this area. It states “In the past, the UK had the foresight and ambition to connect everyone to electricity, water and transport networks. The benefits today are obvious. The same ambition is needed now for digital infrastructure”.

The Assessment highlights how we are behind countries such as the USA, the Netherlands and Japan for 4G and broadband speeds. Businesses and households in rural areas know the picture is even bleaker.

It is unacceptable that 960,000 homes in rural areas still cannot access download speeds greater than 10Mbit/s. With the drive for digital by default and the ambition for the UK to have a world leading digital economy, it is essential that people in the countryside have access to reliable high speed broadband.

We welcome the Assessment’s recognition that “the UK will not be able to fully realise its digital ambitions whilst areas remain excluded” and that “substantial investment” in digital infrastructure is required, including bespoke solutions for rural areas, to ensure we have a world leading digital economy.

Countryside Alliance Head of Policy, Sarah Lee, commented: “As we exit the European Union we must ensure the UK is globally competitive, and this will not be the case unless we invest in better broadband for all, no matter where you live.

“The National Infrastructure Assessment has highlighted that our digital connectivity speeds are falling behind and right to say we must deliver world class infrastructure. It is now down to the Government to heed this warning and take action to ensure its digital ambitions are met.”