Michael Fabricant raised the lack of broadband in parts of Staffordshire in Parliament on Thursday 27th November. In particular he mentioned the problems being experienced in Tatenhill in his Lichfield constituency. Michael questioned Ed Vaizey the minister responsible for broadband in the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. Hansard reports:
Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con): What steps he is taking to provide broadband of up to 2 megabits in areas currently not served.
The Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy (Mr Edward Vaizey): I am pleased to be able to tell my hon. Friend that Ofcom reports that 97% of premises in the UK already have access to broadband speeds of at least 2 megabits. The Government are committed to ensuring that the whole country will be able to receive 2 megabits as soon as possible.
Michael Fabricant: Well, I would not want to accuse my hon. Friend—and he is a friend—of being smug, but what about the other 3%? May I just say how utterly frustrating it is to hear about superfast broadband when parts of my constituency such as Tatenhill, and other parts of the United Kingdom, have no broadband at all?
Mr Vaizey: I am very far from being smug. Having read my hon. Friend’s interview in which he waxed lyrical about his “bromance” with the Chief Whip, imagine how I felt after our years of friendship. Nevertheless, I remain resolute in supporting him, and I am pleased to be able to tell him that Staffordshire as a whole has received £9 million to connect to superfast broadband and that his own constituency will see 8,000 homes committed under our programme. That is real “bromance”, Mr Speaker.
Michael Fabricant now says: “It is important to highlight this issue and I hope it puts pressure on BT to provide the exchanges and the lines required to deliver universal service. With Government moving many services onto the internet and so much commerce being conducted on the world wide web too, broadband is as much a basic utility as electricity and piped water. It is important that Tatenhill and other villages have access to fast broadband.
“I was delighted that other MPs including Ann McIntosh, chairman of the Environment Food and Rural Affairs House Committee, backed my call. Hansard reports:
Miss Anne McIntosh (Thirsk and Malton) (Con): I hate to break up the “bromance” but 28% of farms and rural businesses across Thirsk, Malton and Filey will not have any fast-speed broadband, not even 2 megabits, by 2016, yet the Government are making us all go digital by default. What measures will the Minister take to allow farms and rural businesses to access rural broadband before digital by default goes live?
Mr Vaizey: As I said, we are well ahead of schedule with our roll-out of superfast broadband. On Yorkshire, North Yorkshire was one of the first out of the traps, and more than 60,000 homes have been connected through that programme. We also have a £10 million pilot scheme to connect the most remote parts of the country, and that is going very well.