MP calls for better connectivity for Somerset
Following a Commons debate on the subject last week, MP David Warburton is calling for better broadband. The Leveller has repeatedly pointed out the poor connectivity our county “enjoys”. This is made worse after around £140m of public money has been invested via “Connecting Devon & Somerset”. This was supposed to bring Somerset into the 21st century. Instead in terms of broadband speed, in terms of broadband availability, Somerset is close to the bottom of league tables. And Mr Warburton’s own constituency, Somerton & Frome is among the worst.
It was ranked 627th in the country out of 650 constituencies for broadband availability*.
It was ranked 598th for broadband speeds of over 30mbps. Wells constituency was ranked 603rd.*
That puts our county alongside the likes of the Outer Hebrides, rural Wales and Cornwall. In a world where businesses compete region to region, this looks like failure.
In his speech to Parliament the MP for Somerton & Frome complained “Rural communities throughout the UK—Somerset is no exception—suffer from a productivity gap with urban areas and, as I said in last month’s debate on the rural productivity gap, the answer lies in technology and infrastructure. Even before lockdown, a quarter of the rural population worked from home, and that will only increase, but Somerset is sprinkled with areas that have unreliable, intermittent or very slow connectivity.”
This is a problem that is not new. but as Mr Warburton points out, it is getting ever more urgent “If small and medium-sized enterprises are the engine of the rural economy, how can we get that engine started and running smoothly? Alongside agriculture, there are huge numbers of blossoming, blooming, burgeoning start-ups and growing businesses. For example, the logistics and supply-chain company Vallis Commodities in my own Frome utterly depends on Somerset’s digital infrastructure.”
*Papers produced by the House of Commons library