Better Broadband for our communities

I met yesterday (16 February) with representatives from the Better Broadband for Oxfordshire team to discuss the continuing rollout programme and get an update on progress in installing broadband particularly in communities just outside Henley.

There was good news in that more communities will be covered by the roll out with a promised date for delivery of by the end of April, thus getting much better speeds. These communities include Maidensgrove, Russells Water, more areas in Stonor, Middle Assendon and also in North Stoke. The MP had earlier raised the issue with the Minister, Margot James MP, when she visited Bix for a business function in the constituency.

I said

'I am delighted to learn that still more households are to benefit from better broadband speeds by the end of April. The constituency now has 92.5% coverage and by the end of the year should have over 97% coverage. This is good news but I can assure people that the last 3% have not been forgotten and I am continuing to work to help them.

'I congratulate the Better Broadband team for their hard work in this and for ensuring that our communities which are some of the most rural in Oxfordshire have not simply been forgotten.'

I have long argued the case for better broadband speeds within the constituency calling for broadband to be classed as an essential utility alongside power and water. I have put forward the case that with growing use of online services by Government departments including in education and health that broadband is no longer a 'nice to have' but an essential resource.

I added

'I was surprised and disturbed to learn that new housing developments do not automatically include digital infrastructure at the time of building. It would be so easy and cost effective to lay ducts when the ground is open and the buildings are going up. I will be raising this with the Secretary of State when Parliament returns next week to see whether some reference to this can be included in the National Planning Policy Framework which is being revised.'