ARTICLES


  • Getting Connected

    Mid Devon Advertiser
    25 November 2016

    One of the greatest issues facing a vast rural constituency like ours is the availability of fast broadband. This is especially critical in rural areas where data connectivity can go at least some way to make up for the lack of other forms of infrastructure - most notably public transport. Whether you are a farmer completing your RPA paperwork, a student enhancing your study or someone wishing to take advantage of online shopping, then internet speed is vital; a need that is also key for the hard working and creative people in our small businesses right across Central Devon.
     
    The Government and has made very significant progress in rolling out superfast broadband with the UK having the best coverage amongst the top five European economies backed by £1.7 billion of government investment. Once rollout is completed, it is expected to benefit rural economies by £275 million per month – or £9 million per day – by 2024. However, there is much more still to be done. Whereas nationally 92% of users currently have access to superfast broadband (speeds of 24Mbps or more) in Central Devon the figure is 68%.
     
    It may take a little longer to get there in hard to reach areas but we are moving firmly in the right direction. Companies such as Airband UK are using Cambium Networks technology to roll out point-to-point wireless broadband across Dartmoor. It is estimated that Airband’s superfast broadband will serve just over 2,000 Dartmoor residents by the end of this year alone, and this will rise to 4,000 in early 2017. The speeds available will outclass the typical download speeds even in our city centres. During my visits to Cambium, CDS (the main coordinator for the rollout programme), I have always been impressed with the energy and creativity with which these issues are being addressed. In Westminster I have pressed the Government hard for sufficient funding and appropriate approaches to ensuring that we meet the critical and unique needs of our rural communities. Last week, our Minister of State for digital policy, Matt Hancock, was, at my behest, met with representatives from Connecting Dartmoor and Exmoor, Airband, local councilors and other members of the community at Islington Village Hall to discuss how we can intensify the rollout of broadband locally. All of this is part of the push that I am making in this area.
     
    The challenges of rolling out 21st century broadband across some of the remotest parts of the county should not be underestimated, but I am encouraged by the work that is in hand and the significant further progress that I am confident will following in the next year or so. I am of course very interested in individual experiences of broadband services and please do contact me with any feedback you would like to pass on. I will then make sure this is taken into account as we move forward. You can reach me via my website at www.melstridemp.com







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