westminster rural broadband debate
Rory initiated an Adjournment Debate in the House of Commons last Wednesday at which he led MPs from around the country to push the Minister for Broadband, Edward Vaizey MP, on the demand for rural broadband. In the Westminster Hall Debate on Wednesday 23rd March 2011 Rory attracted 20 fellow MPs to the debate representing constituencies as far reaching as Airdrie and Shotts, Newcastle upon Tyne, Carmarthen, Herefordshire, East Yorkshire, Suffolk, Norfolk, Gloucestershire, Devon, Lincolnshire, Northumberland and Lancashire.
Leading the debate Rory paid tribute to the work being done by local communities in rolling out super fast broadband. He said “This is above all a story about community pressure and Government responding to it. Within the confines of Cumbria, there has been huge pressure from a diverse range of communities. The people and places include Libby Bateman from Kirkby Stephen, Miles Mandelson, who has constructed one of the most exciting superfast networks imaginable in Great Asby, Leith-Lyvennet Broadband and Northern Fells Broadband. They have all been pushing ahead on this issue.”
Rory went on to say that “Isolation cripples our economies. As a group of MPs, we have in our constituencies far more self-employed people than any other constituencies in Britain and far more people working from home. Broadband is essential for that, but also for public services such as health and education. It allows my neighbour with Parkinson’s disease, instead of making a four and a half hour round trip to Newcastle general hospital, to have a live video link to the consultant without leaving home. The same is true of distance education and learning. Parishes and communities will provide financing and labour, they will waive wayleaves, they will dig their own trenches allowing us to achieve much broader coverage and much faster speeds in a fraction of the time. This requires the commercial sector to be more flexible. Data charging rates must be reasonable, and if the community digs and installs the fibre it must not be charged as though the commercial provider had dug it.”
In response to Rory’s speech the Minister for Broadband commented upon the vast representation of MPs saying “No one can doubt rural communities’ desire to achieve broadband roll-out.” He also praised Rory’s leadership on this issue and confirmed that the £530 million the government has put aside to help fund broadband roll-out would be specifically for places where the market will not deliver – mainly rural communities.
You can watch the debate online here – fast forward to just after 16:00.