Much still to do on creating digital connectivity, says the CLA

01 March 2017

The CLA has said that there is still a considerable amount to be done to ensure that everybody who lives and works in rural Britain has access to effective broadband and mobile connectivity.

The CLA recognises that today’s release of the government’s Digital Strategy is a first step in creating a world class digital infrastructure. Secretary of State Karen Bradley has called for the end of the digital divide in order for every individual and business to have access to high-quality mobile coverage and internet, an ambition that the CLA has pursued for many years.

CLA Senior Economics Adviser Dr Charles Trotman said: “The government has been talking about creating a world leading digital infrastructure for some time now, and it is essential that this comes first in order for businesses, both rural and urban, to thrive. It is obvious that the rural-urban digital divide is still very much in existence, and resolving this must be a priority.”

Dr Trotman continued: “People are increasingly coming to rely on mobile devices and using technology on the go, and the digital divide puts rural areas at an unfair disadvantage. The government has said it will commit to rolling out 5G coverage, but this is of no comfort for those who still have poor mobile coverage or no coverage at all. Without UK-wide infrastructure, the government’s vision for their digital strategy will simply not work.

“The CLA has said on many occasions that the Universal Service Obligation will be crucial in providing much-needed connectivity, which has to be the key objective. More must be done to see this completed by the 2020 deadline.

“However, the CLA fully supports the Secretary of State’s call for a sector deal, and we will be discussing with the industry how to put formal proposals to government to make this a reality. We believe that working in partnership with both industry and the government is the best way to move forward in order to deliver a first-class digital infrastructure.

“We are also pleased to see that the government is committed to exploring options around planning and wayleave agreements and we have already begun discussions with the industry on the need for a comprehensive wayleave agreement.”