With Thirsk and Malton ranked 528th out of 650 constituencies in the country for average download speed I am absolutely delighted that the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs has announced that North Yorkshire is to receive £11 million funding through the Government’s Rural Broadband Infrastructure Scheme to improve broadband for rural businesses and communities. This is part of a £45 million boost by the Government to improve broadband in rural areas nationwide and I was delighted to support the excellent bid that had been submitted by Superfast North Yorkshire, the broadband delivery vehicle of North Yorkshire County Council. The Rural Affairs Minister, Lord Gardiner, visited the North York Moors National Park yesterday as part of National Parks Week to make the announcement.
The money will go towards improving infrastructure, which is costly in sparsely populated and often hard-to-reach areas. The Rural Affairs Minister, Lord Gardiner, said that “rural areas should not be left behind in the connectivity slow lane, missing out on the opportunities high speed broadband can bring”. I couldn’t agree more; our businesses, schools and households deserve as fast a speed as those in suburban and inner-city areas.
The £11 million North Yorkshire will receive is part of planned investment of at least £3.5 billion into our rural economies by 2020, supporting the quarter of businesses in the UK which are based in the countryside.
Fortunately, this funding encourages and champions our countryside communities and businesses by opening up access to broadband of at least 30 Megabits per second. This is an improvement upon our current average download speed of 26.40 Mbps but still lags behind the national average of 46.2 Mbps.
North Yorkshire County Council leader Councillor Carl Les said: “We would like to thank MPs for their invaluable support, both in this successful bid and at all times for the Superfast North Yorkshire project.’’
The executive member for access, Councillor Don Mackenzie, said: “High-quality digital infrastructure is essential for business success, for the needs of households, for education and for health and social care. It is why NYCC prioritises excellent broadband provision and also improvements in 4G mobile phone coverage.
“In addition to the SFNY programme, the county council also bid for, and was successful in winning from the Government, £15.1m to develop a series of Local Full Fibre Networks based on 391 public buildings in the county. It is expected that this money will extend the reach of high capacity fibre networks to public sector sites across the county.’’
I recently wrote a report, Solutions for the fifteen per cent, in June to suggest to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport that we utilise fixed wireless technologies in rural areas to guarantee superfast broadband when funding is insufficient for universal fibre-based rollout. This was co-signed by a number of my Conservative colleagues whose constituencies also suffer from slow broadband speeds. That report can be read in full here.
This grant for local authorities in North Yorkshire is a much-needed boost for broadband, benefitting businesses and households in my constituency. I shall continue to work with the Government to ensure better broadband speeds for all.