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MP calls for adequate post-2015 funding for broadband

January 11, 2013 11:41 AM

Speaking in Parliament today, North Devon MP Nick Harvey called on culture ministers to consider the practical difficulties in rolling out broadband in Devon and Somerset by a 2015 deadline.

The MP's question follows the recent publication of a report commended by the Minister Ed Vaizey, by the Policy Exchange think-tank, calling for an end to Government subsidies for broadband by 2015.

Nick asked if the Minister was aware that practical considerations - in the case of the Connecting Devon and Somerset broadband programme - like the huge geographic spread of the rural area and BT's lack of capacity - would make reaching the March 2015 deadline an impossibility.

Commenting, Nick Harvey said:

"The £32 million that the Government will give to Connecting Devon and Somerset this month comes with the condition that it must be spent by March 2015. However, given that unlike any other programme in the country, CDS has to roll out broadband over 6 local authorities, this is just a practical impossibility.

"We need greater flexibility in the spending timeframe to ensure people in the hardest to reach areas - like North Devon - can have full broadband coverage. I hope the Government will see that the new report's suggestion of axing broadband funding before those areas have even achieved this will have an extremely negative impact."

The full text of Nick Harvey's question and the Minister's response is as follows:

Sir Nick Harvey (North Devon) (LD):

Returning to the question of broadband roll-out, the Minister has reaffirmed the 2015 deadline, and the Policy Exchange report that he commended states that no public money should be made available after that date. Is he aware, however, that there are real practical considerations as to whether it will be possible to complete the programme by 2015, owing to a lack of capacity on the part of BT, even though the funding has been allocated?

Mr Vaizey:

We have set aside more than £15 million for broadband roll-out in the hon. Gentleman's area, and we are confident that we are still working towards our target of 2015. Of course, we have money allocated for broadband after 2015. We have not decided specifically how that money will be used, but we will make a decision on that in the fullness of time.