Adam Afriyie (Windsor, Conservative): To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what progress he has made on improving the availability of superfast broadband in (a) the Thames Valley and (b) Windsor constituency.
Edward Vaizey (The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for DCMS; Wantage, Conservative): I can confirm that the Berkshire broadband project was allocated £2.03 million, which was matched by the Berkshire councils, the project signed its supplier contract on 4 October 2013 and is proposing to make available superfast broadband to over 17,000 premises that would not otherwise have got it.
Ofcom monitors and reports on broadband and the table is of Next Generation Access availability across Berkshire between 2012 and 2013:
The Internet is economically vital and a must-have fourth utility for most households. Demand is escalating and to stay ahead we must rethink how the limited spectrum is allocated as I argue today in Computer Weekly.
We must make sure that the UK telecommunications network – that carries all these digital signals – has a sustainable future. As demand for these services expand, the network must be able to handle this increase in traffic. That’s why I’m calling on the Government to release an extra 650MHz of spectrum to private businesses from the public sector.
Read the article on Computer Weekly
Adam Afriyie (Windsor, Conservative): To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport what recent assessment he has made of the effects of the Mobile Infrastructure Project on expanding mobile broadband coverage to hot-spot areas.
Edward Vaizey (The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport; Wantage, Conservative): Increasing the coverage and quality of mobile connectivity will help to support business growth, extend access to key public services and bring an improvement in the mobile customer experience more widely across many parts of the UK. The Mobile Infrastructure Project is working to address premises and roads with no mobile coverage across the UK. We have almost completed the process of identifying the worst affected areas and roads and the Department is working closely with industry to develop plans for those areas being identified.
Adam Afriyie (Windsor, Conservative): With such a massive budget deficit, we cannot rely on extra Government spending for ever more, so it seems to me that we have no choice: we have to rely on innovation — both innovative industries and the innovation of our people — to bring economic growth to every region. Today’s satellites can beam high-speed internet access to every region of Britain, instantly opening up remote areas to economic activity. Does the Secretary of State share my vision for a connected Britain in which satellites bring jobs and the power of online public services to every region of our nation?
Jeremy Hunt (The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport; South West Surrey, Conservative): My hon. Friend makes an important point. In the Thames Valley local enterprise partnership, which covers his constituency, the broadband plans are still at amber, rather than green, and I would be most grateful for his help in getting the three unitary authorities to work together to get those plans into a state where they can be approved. He rightly says that we need to be technology-neutral about this; fixed-line fibre will go into the ground in some areas, but for the more remote areas we will definitely need wireless solutions, be they mobile, wi-fi or satellite, and we will keep all options open.
Adam Afriyie (Windsor, Conservative):To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport what assessment he has made of the capacity of unused television spectrum devices to (a) provide broadband access to rural areas and (b) offload broadband demand in urban areas.
Edward Vaizey (The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport; Wantage, Conservative): I have not made an assessment as this is a matter for Ofcom as the independent spectrum regulator. There are trials of devices that the hon. Member refers to, known as white space devices, which are under way to see if they can safely coexist with existing users. One recently launched in Cambridge. But it would be difficult for Ofcom to make any meaningful assessment of the use of white spaces in assisting with existing broadband coverage or capacity until the results of those trials become known.