The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee is launching an inquiry into Rural broadband and digital only services. Broadband, mobile infrastructure and access to digital services remain a central issue for rural communities.
The EFRA Committee intends to hold a short inquiry, following up on its 2014-15 inquiry into Rural broadband and digital-only services, to examine the government’s current proposals and delivery of digital connectivity to rural areas.
Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee Neil Parish MP said: “The EFRA Committee has decided to revisit this subject because – five years after our initial inquiry – digital connectivity still remains a core issue for many rural communities.
“The Government has identified the challenges for improving digital connectivity in rural areas and recently made numerous policy and funding announcements.
“We want to know if these plans for improving connectivity are adequate for rural areas and what is being done in the short term to improve delivery of broadband and improved mobile phone coverage to those living there.
“The Committee will also test how the Government plans to ensure access to the growing number of online public services at no extra cost to rural consumers.
“As previous select committee inquiries have shown, delivery of broadband in rural areas in the past has been poor. We cannot allow this problem to continue. The Government and service providers need to ensure that equal access to a high-quality, cost-effective service is accessible to all.”
The Committee is seeking written submissions that address the following questions:
- What are the barriers to delivering superfast broadband and improved mobile phone coverage in rural areas at an affordable cost to consumers?
- Is enough being done to address the disparity in coverage and digital service provision between rural and urban areas? What is the impact of the urban-rural digital divide on rural communities?
- Is the current Universal Service Obligation (USO) adequate for the needs of rural communities and businesses and will it be effectively delivered? Given technological developments, including provision of 5G, will the USO provide the necessary level of connectivity for rural areas in the next decade?
- Are the Government’s recent policy and funding announcements for improving digital connectivity adequate for rural areas, and how robust are the plans for delivery?
- How well do digital public services work in rural areas where there are poor internet connections? What support or alternatives are available for those in rural areas with poor or no connection to use digital public services and how effective is it?
Deadline for submissions
Written evidence should be submitted through the Committee’s web portal by midnight on Monday 24 June. It is recommended that all submitters familiarise themselves with the Guidance on giving evidence to a Select Committee of the House of Commons which outlines particulars of word count, format, document size, and content restrictions.