Local MP, Rory Stewart, has called for Cumbria’s most remote and rural communities to be prioritised in the second stage of Connecting Cumbria’s broadband rollout. Rory Stewart was instrumental in securing more broadband funding per capita for Cumbria than any other county in the UK. But he is now concerned that the roll-out is not focusing on those rural residents and businesses that most struggle with limited services and access to market, Rory Stewart has insisted in the consultation that Cumbria’s most isolated communities should not be overlooked as the county council considers the next phase of the rollout. He has formally submitted his own views in the current public consultation that is open for comments until 9th January 2015 and has encouraged all other Cumbrians to contribute to the consultation.

The first phase, a collaboration between Cumbria County Council and BT, will see superfast broadband delivered to 93% of homes and businesses in the county by the end of 2015. This included a commitment to deliver a minimum of 2mbps broadband service to the remaining 7%. It is this minimum universal service delivery that Rory Stewart is particularly keen to see honoured. He states it has been a point of frustration and concern for many of his constituents, who have seen improvements in areas of good broadband coverage made ahead of improvements in areas with no provision.

Rory Stewart has championed numerous technology trials in the most remote parts of Cumbria, ranging from a fibre-to-the-premise project in Fellend, a femto cell trial in Caldbeck, to a 4G mobile trial in Threlkeld and Sebergham.

Rory Stewart said:

“Cumbria has a right to feel proud of the broadband service it will have delivered by the end of 2015, and many Cumbrians have fought hard to secure the best possible deal for our rural communities. But up to 7 per cent of houses are still missing out. And it is these – our most rural and isolated communities –  that will benefit the most from broadband technology. That is why this second phase of Connecting Cumbria’s broadband rollout absolutely must focus on these communities, to ensure no one is left behind. We have some incredible technologies being trialled in Cumbria – from Fellend to the Northern Fells – that could transform the way in which we provide broadband and mobile service to our sparsely-populated communities. We have run five very successful pilots up and down the constituency. The county council should look very closely at how we can replicate these projects.”

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