A committee of MPs are to probe superfast broadband blackspots in a bid to find out whether they’re delivering the connection speeds that telcos and internet service providers say they are.
Meg Hellier, the new chairwoman of the Public Accounts Committee and the Labour MP for Tech City (Hackney South and Shoreditch), told the Commons that investigations will be carried out by her committee into the rollout of superfast broadband across the UK.
“The PAC has looked at this issue in detail and I warn the minister that we will no doubt look at it again,” she's reported as saying by the Evening Standard newspaper.
The debate at Parliament's Westminster Hall took place after new Conservative MP Matt Warman, a former technology journalist for The Telegraph, secured a slot in a ballot.
“There are serious problems [with broadband] in cities as well as in rural areas," Warman told the Commons. “Geographically, the rural broadband programme remains an enormous task, because it covers something like 40 percent of the area of the country, but I ask that we also consider today the huge numbers of people in cities who often have very slow connections.”
Mark Field, Conservative MP for the Cities of London and Westminster, added there are “significant” problems with superfast broadband in the capital.
“The European Commission is preventing the government from subsidising the rollout of superfast broadband in inner cities and beyond,” he said.
“Perversely, that means that remote villages sometimes have better broadband connections than those available in my constituency, which contains the political, business, cultural and technological heart of the UK.”
The founder of a London-based app with tens of millions of users is just one technology business leader to slam the broadband infrastructure in Tech City.
Field claims there has been a “significant market failure” in the delivery of superfast broadband.
“One of the most significant delays in connecting a business or resident to broadband infrastructure, even in the heart of London, is the time taken to negotiate the legal permissions that are needed to allow that infrastructure to cross the public highway or to take it into a building,” he added.
Digital economy minister Ed Vaizey claimed the delivery of superfast broadband was “at a critical point” where the required infrastructure was nearly meeting universal demand.
Vaizey highlighted how Britain is doing a better job at making superfast broadband accessible than France, Germany and Spain.