House of Lords sets out steps for improving rural connectivity

House of Lords sets out steps for improving rural connectivity

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A new report from the House of Lords has identified a series of steps that should be taken to give the UK's rural economy a boost, with improvements to mobile and fixed-line connectivity among the top priorities.

The study, from the House of Lords Select Committee on the Rural Economy, called on the government to develop a new strategy for these parts of the country that puts digital infrastructure at the heart of development plans.

Chair of the committee Lord Foster of Bath said rural communities have been "ignored and underrated" for too long, and action must be taken now to address the clear inequalities between rural and urban areas before it is too late.

He added: "A rural strategy would address challenges and realise potential in struggling and under-performing areas, and allow vibrant and thriving areas to develop further. Doing nothing is not an option."

When it comes to digital connectivity, the report welcomed steps that have already been taken to boost performance in overlooked areas, such as the new Universal Service Obligation (USO), but stressed more must be done.

For instance, it warned how the current standards outlined by the USO - for every home and business to have the right to request minimum download speeds of 10Mbps - are "too modest" and should be reviewed to better reflect the growing needs of customers in today's environment.

Similarly, the committee also suggested the threshold of £3,400 per eligible property should be increased to ensure broadband can be delivered to even the hardest-to-reach locations. "This must include consideration of home workers and businesses operating from home in remote areas," the report stated.

It also called on Ofcom to do more to improve access to information about what connectivity is available to rural homes and businesses.

"This should include regularly updated information about when residents and businesses can expect to be connected to digital infrastructure, connectivity options for communities and details of providers operating in their local area, and regular reporting on the progress of 5G rollout in local areas," the report stated.

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