Michael's speech about Broadband

Michael was pleased to be able to make a speech in support of a new Government Bill which aims to encourage investment in broadband and mobile phone infrastructure. Not-spots and slow broadband are an issue in many parts of the constituency and this is the full text of Michael's speech in Parliament:

"I warmly welcome the Bill. As we have heard so many hon. Members say, the importance of broadband cannot be overstated. It is as important as road and rail, and is a vital part of our infrastructure. Although I am pleased with the progress the Government are making, I will dwell on one or two brief points about where improvements still need to be made.

I start with words of congratulation, because it is right to acknowledge where the Government are moving in the right direction, and to be able to stand up and say that 93% coverage for superfast broadband is indeed an achievement. I applaud the ambition to achieve 95% coverage by the end of 2017, and I was pleased to hear the Minister say that the Government are on target for that. However, it is frustrating for the 5% who are still left without it. That point has been repeated this evening, but I make no apologies for repeating it again. Many of us who have spoken represent constituents who are in exactly that position, and I know that a number of my constituents are not consoled by the fact that 95% of the rest of the population have access to superfast broadband while they do not.

I need not dwell on specific internet speeds; suffice it to say that the 1,000 megabits per second lauded in relation to the Bill is to be warmly welcomed, but that figure would be staggering to my many constituents who are struggling with 0.5 to 1 megabits per second and really cannot imagine a speed as vast as 1,000 megabits per second. However, I will, if I may, dwell on two or three brief constituency examples that constituents have raised with me. I must declare an interest in that, in the village of Lytchett Matravers, I am affected by many of the same issues.

The first example involves a constituent who wrote to me expressing great concern about broadband speeds of between 0.5 and 1 megabits per second. As has been said, we use the internet for more and more things these days, including education. My hon. Friend Helen Whately mentioned researching points for educational purposes, but it goes further than that because many of our children are asked to do homework based on the internet and purely on the internet; in fact, they have to access the internet to download the homework to do that evening. One constituent wrote to me saying that they have to ration the amount of homework that their family can do, with the children taking it in turns to get on to the computer and complete their homework, because speeds of 0.5 to 1 megabits per second simply do not allow two children to do their homework at one and the same time. The additional point was made that updating software—with Microsoft, people do not get a wonderful disc to put into the computer these days; they actually have to download it from the internet—simply cannot be done if the speeds are not fast enough.

The second example I was recently given by a constituent involves a rural business. Again, the constituent lives about 100 metres from a different network that is much faster and would allow the business to function properly. As it is, he is struggling on less than 1 megabit per second and has to go to his place of work to download his work. The speeds where he lives simply will not allow it. My hon. Friend Mr Jayawardena mentioned an example in his constituency in which BT was flexible, but in this case BT has not been flexible enough and will not allow my constituent to change from one exchange to another, despite the distance of merely 50 metres or so.

I am conscious of the time, Mr Deputy Speaker, but I want to make one or two final points about postcodes, if I may. I know that the Minister is soon to jump up to the Dispatch Box, but I want him to take this point on board. Quite often the data are arranged by postcode and the percentages are calculated on that basis. However, some roads have the same postcode but different exchanges. I can think of one example in Dorset where it is claimed people have the potential to access superfast broadband on the basis of the postcode alone, but that is not the case because the one postcode has two separate exchanges.

I warmly welcome the measures in the Bill. It will not solve all the problems overnight. When my constituents look at the full-fibre speeds, with fibre to the door rather than just to the cabinet, of course they applaud them, but they want them and they want them soon. Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for indulging me and for giving me a full 10 minutes, and I sit down in advance of reaching those 10 minutes.