Association launches campaign for faster speeds in rural areas with warning that 10Mbps is not good enough
The Local Government Association (LGA) has launched a campaign for everyone in rural areas to get access to superfast broadband.
Named Up to Speed, the campaign is accompanied by the provision of a new speed test app that works in all areas and enables users to compare their bandwidths with others in the area.
It comes with the organisation joining the criticisms of the Government's retreat on broadband in rural areas, along with a call for a more flexible national minimum standards and a warning that many users could be stuck in a “digital twilight zone”.
The Government has recently backed away from its target of delivering broadband speeds of 24Mbps throughout the country, with a proposal that a universal service obligation should only require 10Mbps. This follows continued problems in making superfast broadband available for “the final 5%” in remote areas.
It has implications for people and businesses in rural areas being able to use digital public services and run business operations.
The LGA has pointed out that local authorities have a significant role in extending fast broadband, notably in pinpointing weak spots, and warned that a download speed of 10Mbps will soon become inadequate as new online services become available. It predicted the average household will need 19Mbps by 2023.
It said there is a need a new minimum standard based on a percentage of average national speeds, and that the Government should specify performance of other elements such as upload speed.
Councillor Mark Hawthorne, chair of the LGA's People and Places Board, said the minimum standard should be constantly reviewed. Otherwise some areas could fall into the digital twilight zone.
"Achieving 10 Mbps should just be the start and something to build on because demand for and availability of faster speeds continues to grow,” he said. “For the farmer applying for funding, the small business processing its invoices or the GP checking the availability of medicines, broadband is communities' lifeblood.
"Councils are best placed to understand the digital needs of local areas. They are at the centre of improving mobile connectivity through helping implement superfast broadband programmes, organising local initiatives to raise residents' and businesses' digital skills and working with mobile operators to best place infrastructure."