Conservative leadership favourite Boris Johnson has promised a ‘turbo-charged broadband revolution’ if he becomes Prime Minister.
In an opinion piece in The Telegraph, Mr Johnson, who has stormed ahead of the other candidates for the top job in recent days, said it was ‘a disgrace’ that many rural areas were being left behind because of a digital divide.
“In Spain there are now 85 per cent of households which have full fibre-optic broadband, with its almost limitless capacity to pump data to and from your home,” he wrote.
“There are remote Galician pueblos which have speed-of-light access to all the commercial and cultural glories of the web.
“There are whole towns in Britain where people are still being driven wild with frustration as they stare at the slowly revolving pizza wheel of doom.
“It cannot go on like this. The Government has just set a new target for the 100 per cent roll-out of full fibre broadband – by 2033! Tell that to rural Lincolnshire. As a deadline, that is laughably unambitious.”
Mr Johnson made the new broadband pledge as industry leaders warned the urban-rural digital divide was still very real.
During an Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee hearing last week (June 12), Mark Bridgeman, deputy president of the CLA, said: “If we look at the total coverage in urban areas, at minimum 10 Mbps, which is deemed to be the basic requirement, 99 per cent of people have got that.
“In rural areas, there are still 12 per cent of people who do not, and that is around half a million homes.”
Jeremy Leggett, rural policy adviser at Action with Communities in Rural England, who was also giving evidence to MPs on the committee, pointed out there was a need to improve mobile connectivity in the countryside as well as broadband infrastructure.
He suggested the digital divide could become much bigger as the opportunities of 5G started to be realised.
“Mobile is a very big issue for rural people now because the not spots are still considerable,” he said.
“If roaming can operate in other countries, why can it not here?”