Julian leads MPs in lobbying government over rural 4G mobile coverage
May 15, 2018
Julian has led a cross-party group of MPs in calling for action to ensure better 4G mobile coverage for people in rural areas.
Acting in his capacity as Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Rural Business, Julian coordinated the sending of a joint letter to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Matt Hancock, signed by 56 MPs from the Conservatives, Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the SNP and Plaid Cymru.
The letter calls for new measures to assist the government in meeting its aim of delivering mobile coverage to 95% of the UK’s landmass by the end of 2022. Most significantly, the signatories propose the introduction of a new legally-binding coverage obligation for the four major providers (EE, O2, Vodafone and Three) to ensure progress is made.
The joint letter also suggests changes to ensure communities can access more information on rollout plans, with alterations to transparency rules so that providers cannot cite ‘commercial confidentiality’ to avoid telling residents when and where they plan to expand coverage. A rethink of the legal duties of Ofcom, the communications regulator, in order to clarify that its main function must be to work towards the delivery of universal quality mobile coverage is also recommended.
4G mobile coverage is up to 10 times faster than 3G, and allows for videos to be streamed to phones. The government’s own figures estimate that achieving the 95% coverage ambition could add £75 billion to the British economy.
Julian said “The fact so many parliamentary colleagues of all parties are supporting this call highlights the desire among rural communities to see urgent progress made on this. The ‘digital divide’ remains stark, with people in just 57% of rural premises able to make mobile calls on all 4 main networks, as against 90% for the UK overall. I see this in my own constituency, with a significant variation between service in the centre of York, and outlying communities, to the disadvantage of households and local businesses.
Progress on rolling out 4G across the countryside has simply been too slow, and it is right for the government to take firm action to force the pace. Having to rely on slower digital infrastructure is particularly inhibiting for rural businesses, and prevents the rural economy from reaching its full potential.
4G is now a basic utility, and access needs to be guaranteed for rural communities as soon as possible. I look forward to the Secretary of State’s response”.