The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Jeremy Wright, has made it clear to me that he is prepared to force network operators to enable roaming between providers to improve mobile coverage in rural areas if they do not come up with a solution voluntarily. During the meeting I explained to the minister that the lack of coordination between the network providers has left many rural areas covered by some but not all the networks, which, in turn, means that some rural locations have no access at all.
I have already secured the support of 75 MPs to write to the Secretary of State to outline our concerns that the lack of mobile coverage has a very negative economic, educational and leisure impact for residents in rural areas and remains a significant brake on growth for the local, regional and national economy. We argued that the introduction of roaming between networks will vastly increase the operational coverage for many of our constituents.
Mr Wright said he had listened to our arguments and would be requiring network operators to enable roaming unless they came up with their own solution before May. I am grateful to the Secretary of State for his intervention in this very important issue. It will make a huge difference to people in the more rural parts of my constituency and elsewhere in both their working and home lives and I am delighted with this outcome.
I also discussed the Universal Service Obligation (USO) which stipulates that those operators which win broadband bids in rural areas should use a mixed solution and include fixed wireless rather than just fibre, which would also increase access and speed of broadband in rural areas.