March 15, 2014

Rural broadband vital to stop children falling behind

It is becoming increasingly clear to me that rural broadband is a huge issue in the Buckingham constituency. Although I have maintained a steady flow of representations to internet providers over the years regarding the average connection speed, I have noticed that the complaints have been coming into my office with greater regularity in recent months.

The issue is two-fold. First, there is the roll-out of the high speed fibre optic broadband, which is faster and more reliable than the traditional service. Whilst some areas of the constituency have access, many more have not – amazingly, sometimes half a village will be connected whereas the other half isn’t. Secondly, it is the speed of broadband per se, which is much slower in rural communities than urban ones.

This is not just a question of being able to check the football scores and doing online shopping. Buckinghamshire has more start-ups per head than any other county, which means that for our community, a decent broadband connection is vital to small businesses and the local economy. I have been in touch with several people who either work from home or have their own business who tell me that the situation is so bad, they fear they will have to move lest their companies and work become unviable. With so much done online these days, this is a matter grave concern; it is not in anybody’s interests for our rural communities simply to fall away.

Furthermore, with so many tools vital for the education now available online, decent internet access is essential in order that our children do not fall behind their contemporaries in better connected areas. I am planning a series of meetings on this issue and I will, of course, keep concerned residents informed as to their outcome.

In more optimistic news, I recently celebrated Fair Trade Fortnight with local schools in the Buckingham constituency, and even partook in a lesson where some Year 10 pupils put me through my paces with respect to ethical global trade. It was truly heartening to see the enthusiasm and engagement on the part of the young people, and I hope to take part again next year.

This article was first published in The Bucks Herald.