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Volume 524: debated on Thursday 3 March 2011

16. What assessment he has made of the effect on small businesses of the revision of the timetable for the introduction of universal broadband. (43647)

My Department believes that all businesses will benefit from the enhanced availability of superfast broadband. Work carried out by Broadband Delivery UK last summer underpinned the decision to bring together efforts to drive superfast broadband out as far as possible at the same time as delivering universal broadband.

Does the Minister still believe that duct access is the solution for the roll-out of next-generation superfast broadband to rural populations?

I certainly believe that duct access is part of the solution. Not only are we investing £530 million in the lifetime of this Parliament, but, as I am sure the hon. Gentleman will agree, deregulation—in the sense of removing barriers to investment—is a very important part of the strategy as well.

Removing barriers in the way that the Minister describes is important, but, with the roll-out of superfast broadband, does he not agree that, although urban, city and suburban areas will be fine, the real risk is that really remote rural areas, such as those throughout Wiltshire, will take an awfully long time to be connected? Will he give us his assurance today that he will pay particular attention to rural areas such as mine in the roll-out of superfast broadband?

I certainly will. In fact, I bumped into the chief executive of Wiltshire county council only this week and heard some of its exciting proposals to ensure that superfast broadband goes to all rural areas of Wiltshire.