Rural broadband 'vital' service – Gove

Better rural broadband is as vital as the HS2 high-speed rail link, Defra secretary Michael Gove has said.

Broadband is a public good of critical interest and vital benefit to a great many people, Mr Gove told the National Farmers Union (NFU) annual conference.

So too was 4G mobile coverage, he suggested to listeners at the Birmingham ICC on 20 February.

    See also: Rural broadband 'still in slow lane'

“It is ridiculous that you can get better mobile phone coverage in Kenya than in parts of Kent,” Mr Gove told conference delegates.

It was unjustifiable at broadband provision was so patchy and poor in so many areas, he added.

Daily life, especially active economic life, is becoming increasingly difficult for those without access to fast, reliable and affordable broadband, said Mr Gove.

    'Essential service'

“It is the necessary infrastructure of all our lives in these times – as essential as mains electricity or clean drinking water.”

Mr Gove suggested it was wrong that some citizens were denied to broadband.

The government had already raised the availability of super-fast broadband from 65% of premises in 2010 to 95% by the end of 2017 – but more needed to be done.

“We have committed to making high speed broadband available to all by 2020 and mobile coverage to 95% of the UK by 2022,” said Mr Gove.

The government had already announced a new initiative to use church spires to boost broadband and mobile connectivity in rural areas, he added.

“This kind of creative thinking shows how our nation’s beautiful heritage can work hand in hand with twenty-first century innovation.

“But we still need to go further.”

Important service

People in rural areas were currently being deprived an important service that so many people took for granted – and they needed better connections now.

“We’re planning to spend north of £60 billion on HS2, 30 times as much as it would cost to provide universal superfast broadband for everyone in the country.

“Surely investment in broadband is just as vital, and an urgent part of improving our critical national infrastructure.”

Mr Gove suggested that European Union rules prevented the UK from making the necessary broadband investment in a way that suited the EU.

After Brexit, it would be possible to have universal broadband and 4G coverage for all – paid for by money no longer going from the UK to EU, he added.

“That is what we mean by taking back control,” Mr Gove told farmers.


Sign up to our newsletter to receive all the latest news and updates.