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High-speed Broadband Scorecard

Volume 532: debated on Thursday 8 September 2011

We published our initial proposals for a broadband scorecard just before Christmas. We are absolutely committed to having an objective way of measuring how to get the best superfast broadband network in Europe, and we will continue work to ensure that we can do that.

But the right hon. Gentleman did say, I think, that the scorecard would be published in the summer, and we have not seen it yet. Will it cover progress towards universal broadband as well as high-speed broadband? It has been reported that the 4G spectrum auctions, which should have taken place early this year, are now going to be delayed further beyond their revised date of the beginning of next year. Is that correct, and is he dismayed, as many of us are, by what looks like a yet further delay?

I am sure the right hon. Gentleman, as a former broadband Minister, will know that we have committed ourselves to universal broadband coverage, which will be one of the things measured in the broadband scorecard. However, before he criticises this Government’s progress he should show a little humility. He might like to know that the first thing that broadband officials told me was that the amount of money that had been allocated for universal broadband roll-out was half what was necessary.

Does the Secretary of State recognise the strength of feeling that exists for a 98% coverage clause in the 4G auction that is to come? Will he urge the mobile operators to think long and hard before launching any legal challenge that would merely delay the process and affect the economy?

I am very keen to get on with this auction, because it is clear that the high-speed broadband revolution that we need must also be a mobile revolution—we must assume that most people will access the internet through mobile devices going forward. We are looking very carefully at the possibility of increasing the coverage requirement to 97% and will await Ofcom’s findings, which we expect shortly.