Access to broadband can be an unexpectedly emotive and complex subject. Written evidence the Committee has received explains how poor broadband can lead to a range of problems: from reduced access to online learning resources for students, to families being unable to use everyday online services such as BBC iPlayer and rural businesses being powerless to function in an increasingly online marketplace. Overall, poor broadband can produce a feeling of a two-tier society with the 'have and have nots'. This feeling is most apparent in rural communities which by their geographical nature are often the hardest for the infrastructure to reach.
We were concerned to hear BT tell us that the present target of 95% of premises receiving superfast broadband by 2017 may slip. Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) must make it clear that the target date must be met. A target date for when the last 5% of premises will obtain access to superfast broadband coverage must be published.
The move to an online-only Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) system for payments this year provides a clear example of how online-only services often need to be accessed by those located in geographical areas which are difficult for current broadband infrastructure to reach or for good coverage and speed to be provided. CAP payments offer a prime example of the wider Government policy to make services 'digital-by-default'. This policy has clear ramifications when broadband access is limited or non-existent.
Without doubt, access to broadband is increasing, through Government and industry investment in infrastructure, but there is more to be done. The difficult geographical nature of some communities must not be used as an excuse for a lack of broadband or poor broadband speeds. These challenges should encourage investment and innovation in new types of technology.
The Government must continue to support this progress. It is vital that the last premises in the UK to have access to basic and superfast broadband are treated just as well as the first premises and are not left behind or forgotten.