South Down MP Margaret Ritchie has today called for the British Government to upgrade the Universal Service Obligation for Broadband to ensure that every household and business in Northern Ireland has a right to effective Broadband, particularly those in rural areas.
Ms Ritchie secured a Westminster debate on the issue this afternoon and has called for action to tackle digital dereliction.
She said: “Prime Minister David Cameron and the British Government proudly boast about the successes of their ‘digital revolution’, bringing faster broadband to businesses in Britain. But if he visited many of the local businesses in South Down, he would be put to shame by how rural communities like mine have been abandoned and are struggling to secure any effective broadband connection, putting them at a significant competitive disadvantage.
“Rural communities already experience significant isolation. That is being compounded by widespread digital dereliction where businesses, schools and homeowners struggle to reach even basic levels of broadband speed and connectivity. While British businesses sore at speeds of over 30Mbps, many in my constituency can’t even reach 2Mbps.
“The latest OFCOM data confirms that 10Mbps is the basic level required to meet the demands of an average family. So how our businesses in South Down or in other rural areas of the North supposed to compete?”
Ms Ritchie added: “This is about more than surfing the internet or checking Facebook. With tendering processes largely exclusively online now and as we move to a ‘digital by default’ assumption for CAP applications, our rural industries are being undermined and marginalised. It cannot continue.
“I’m calling for an enhanced Universal Service Obligation that will guarantee a right to be connected to Broadband of at least 10Mbps. The current proposals create only a ‘right to request to be connected’ which falls far short of the standard needed to tackle digital dereliction which is damaging large sections of our economy.
“The Government must step up its efforts and look at alternative means of providing effective and affordable broadband in rural communities.”