DCMS acknowledges that some areas will not have access to superfast broadband by 2017 deadline
The areas which will still be broadband blackspots in two years’ time have been quietly revealed by the Government.
More than one in five premises in no fewer than 17 parliamentary constituencies are unlikely to receive superfast speeds of at least 24Mbps by a deadline of the end of 2017.
Ministers are confident they will achieve their target of 95% coverage across the country by that date – but this masks huge variations and massive blackspots, mainly in rural areas.
The figures have been released by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) in letters to MPs about the prospects for their constituencies.
The worst hit is Haltemprice and Howden, seat of former Conservative minister David Davis, where 62% of premises – a total of 24,639 – are set to miss out. Neighbouring Beverley and Holderness is the second worst with 40% of premises not connected.
Other English seats missing out are: Penrith and the Border (22%), Central Devon (21%), The Cotswolds (21%) and Torridge and West Devon (21%).
In Scotland, huge numbers will not gain superfast broadband in Orkney and Shetland (39%), Ross, Skye and Lochaber (37%), Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (28%) and West Aberdeenshire & Kincardine (25%).
In Wales, many people in Montgomeryshire (31%), Ceredigion (26%), Brecon and Radnorshire (25%) and Carmarthen East and Dinefwr (25%) are likely to stay unconnected.
This ‘digital divide’ alarms Conservative MPs including Graham Stuart, for Beverley and Holderness, who recently protested that rural businesses were being left behind.
Stuart, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Rural Services, said: “Whether you live in the city or in the countryside, broadband is now an essential utility. Yet too many businesses in rural areas don’t have access to the broadband they need to expand.”
Culture Secretary John Whittingdale has hailed the Government’s record, boasting of “wider coverage, better take-up, more choice and lower broadband prices than Germany, France, Italy and Spain”. But ministers have acknowledged that it may be prohibitively expensive to connect the remaining premises, because of distances and demanding terrain.
Seven trial schemes have been set up to try to reach the “final 5%”, using solutions including fibre optic, satellite and wireless. There have been indications that the results will be published soon, but the relevant funding has been cut from £10 million to £8 million and there is no date for providing the technology to rural areas.
Some areas of London, Birmingham and Manchester also have large blackspots, but commercial operators are expected to plug those gaps by 2017.