The UK broadband impact report, undertaken by analysts SQW, was commissioned by the Government and published on 14 November. It looks at the economic, environmental and social benefits of superfast broadband, including in rural areas. The report estimates that the net annual gross value added impacts for the UK attributable to faster broadband speeds will rise to about £17 billion by 2024, of which approximately £4.6 billion will accrue to rural areas.
Given the importance of small and medium-sized enterprises in the rural economy, will my hon. Friend inform us what support the Government are providing for superfast broadband, especially in places such as Hanbury, the Lenches and Inkberrow in my constituency?
I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend about the huge value of broadband in rural areas, particularly to the small and medium-sized enterprises that are so important to the rural economy. The roll- out of broadband to all rural communities across the country is a top priority for us. The Government’s current £530 million rural broadband programme will ensure that 90% of the country has access to superfast speeds. The Government recently announced an extra £250 million investment to extend superfast coverage to 95% of premises by 2017. Together with the industry, we are exploring how to expand coverage further, using more innovative fixed wireless and mobile broadband solutions to reach at least 99% of premises in the UK by 2018.
17. I recently met the managing director of ELE Advanced Technologies, a fast-growing, mid-sized engineering business based across two sites in Colne in my constituency, one of which is in a particularly rural area. It could grow even faster with better broadband connections between the two sites. Will my hon. Friend assure businesses in Pendle, such as ELE, and those in other rural areas that they will not be left behind under this Government? (901186)
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to ensure in his discussions with local delivery bodies that the projects now being put in place by the Government are delivered effectively in his local area. If he has any concerns about that, I will of course be happy to take that up locally.
18. Towns in my constituency, such as Hade Edge and Marsden, are still struggling with poor broadband provision. Does my hon. Friend agree that with snow coming and threatening to cut off businesses in such rural communities, strong broadband connections are vital for our local rural economies? (901187)
I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend that broadband is crucial for the future of the rural economy. He sets out that if other communication links are cut for any reason, businesses will be even more reliant on it, so it is absolutely right that we press forward with it. I hope that communities in his local area will receive the benefits of schemes that we are putting in place nationally.