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West Country leads in ‘broadband blackspots’



DCMS analysis shows regional variations in lack of superfast connections

West Country constituencies will be England’s worst ‘broadband blackspots’ in the years to come, a new analysis shows.

Seven of the 10 Westminster seats where the most homes and offices will lack modern superfast speeds are in the west – in Herefordshire, Devon, Somerset and Shropshire.

Other areas of England where large numbers will miss out are further north, including parts of Cumbria, Northumbria, North Yorkshire and Derbyshire. But even larger proportions of premises in parts of Scotland and Northern Ireland will lack superfast broadband – unless the Government takes further action.

An analysis produced by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and seen by UKAuthority calculates the detailed picture when its current superfast schemes are completed.

English gaps

It shows no fewer than 36% of homes and offices in North Herefordshire are likely to lack superfast speeds, the highest proportion of any constituency in England.

The seats with the next highest figures are: Torridge and West Devon (28%), Penrith and The Border (26%), Central Devon (25%), Tiverton and Honiton (25%), Somerton and Frome (23%), Ludlow (23%) Buckingham (23%), Totnes (20%) and Berwick-on-Tweed (19%).

Also on the blackspot map are the seats of three Cabinet ministers - party chairman Patrick McLoughlin (Derbyshire Dales, 18%), Justice Secretary Liz Truss (South West Norfolk, 15%) and International Development Secretary Priti Patel (Witham, 15%).

That could increase pressure on Chancellor Philip Hammond to unveil a big boost to high speed services in the autumn, as part of a promised new economic strategy.

Many Tory MPs have protested that rural businesses are being left behind because they lack the “essential utility” of superfast broadband.

Wales' worst

In Wales, the worst hit seats will be Montgomeryshire (21%), Brecon and Radnorshire (21%), Preseli Pembrokeshire (16%), Ceredigion (16%) and Carmarthen East and Dinefwr (15%).

But the figures are much worse for Scotland, notably in Na h-Eileanan an Iar (49%), Ross, Skye and Lochaber (48%), Orkney and Shetland (39%), Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (37%) and Argyll and Bute (31%).

In Northern Ireland, the seats with the worst forecasts are Fermanagh and South Tyrone (35%), Mid Ulster (33%), West Tyrone (30%), South Down (27%) and Newry and Armagh (24%).

Parts of London, Birmingham and Manchester could also have large blackspots, but commercial operators are already spending billions to plug those gaps, and in rural areas private firms are unlikely to step in. Earlier this year, the Government axed a proposal to deliver superfast broadband to the “final 5%” of the country because of the cost.

USO promise

Instead, David Cameron announced the Government would explore a universal service obligation - the right to demand only 10Mbps for anywhere in the country - by 2020.

However, the DCMS has pointed out that many homes lacking superfast speeds will still enjoy connections faster than the new 10Mbps minimum.

It has also insisted it is on track to reach its target of 95% of premises boasting speeds of at least 24 Mbps by the end of 2017.

Image: iStock

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