Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dr Dan Poulter has continued his fight for improved broadband services for Suffolk in a Parliamentary debate this week with a call to roll-out mobile broadband and for the Government to investigate the behaviour of BT in the Suffolk Broadband Programme.
There has been recent frustration about the speed and reliability of BT in delivering broadband to homes, so Dr Poulter called the debate to put BT under the spotlight. He was joined by his Suffolk parliamentary colleagues Peter Aldous, MP for Waveney, and Jo Churchill, MP for Bury St Edmunds, in a call to Government to better scrutinise the roll of BT in the roll-out of superfast broadband in Suffolk.
Since he was elected in 2010, Dr Poulter has been leading the campaign for better broadband services in Suffolk. He helped to secure almost £12 million of Government funding, matched by another £12 million from Suffolk County Council, in the first contract for broadband delivery. That was then supported by a grant of £15 million from the Government, another £10 million from Suffolk County Council and £5 million from the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, to ensure that 90% of Suffolk's homes receive high speed broadband by the end of this year, and 95% of homes and businesses have super-fast broadband by the end of 2018.
Dr Poulter thanked Ed Vaizey, the Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy, for his personal support in the roll-out of superfast broadband but told the Minister that there is still much more to do with faster broadband being the single most important issue facing Suffolk and many rural businesses and homes. Dr Poulter outlined to the Minister that the conduct of BT has been a handbrake on Better Broadband for Suffolk's efforts to roll out faster broadband, and that BT needed to behave better to deliver superfast broadband more rapidly.
Finally, Dr Poulter sought the support of the Minister for the final 5% of residents who under current plans will have to wait more than two and a half years for fast, reliable and sustainable broadband, and what more the Government could do to avoid creating a digital divide between the 95% who will receive superfast broadband by 2018 and the remaining 5% who will have to wait a little longer.
The Minister Ed Vaizey thanked Dr Poulter for his thoughtful remarks and said that he showed a superb understanding of the programme and the broadband needs of residents and businesses in Suffolk. The Minister agreed that there have been incidences of BT reneging on its promises of broadband and then not delivering it to certain communities and promised to look into the matter further. The Minister also told Dr Poulter that the Government has a landmark deal with mobile providers to provide 90% geographic coverage for mobile broadband services by the end of 2017.
The Minister agreed to update Dr Poulter on the outcomes of his investigations and made it absolutely clear that all homes and businesses in Suffolk will be receiving superfast broadband.
Speaking after the debate in Parliament, Dr Poulter said "I am very pleased to have brought the debate on broadband to Parliament as this is the single most important issue facing homes, farms and businesses in Suffolk. Improving broadband in Suffolk has always been a top priority for me and I will continue to push the Government to give us the support we need to ensure that every home, farm, business, school and shop in Suffolk receives faster broadband."
Dr Poulter added: "I am also pleased to have gained the Minister's support to investigate the behaviour of BT in its delivery of superfast broadband. BT should be accelerating the roll out of faster broadband, and not acting as a handbrake. I hope BT will have listened to issues I raised in the debate and will work more constructively to support Peter Ingram and the Better Broadband for Suffolk team to roll out superfast broadband to all the homes and businesses in our community".
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