Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee

SESSION 2002-03

15 July 2003


Rural Broadband:

Committee publishes its Report

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee today publishes a report into Rural Broadband. The principal findings of the report are:

•that in many areas Government policies have successfully supported the 'roll out' of broadband, a technology it regards as vital for competitiveness and economic development, as well as for social inclusion;

•that progress in many rural areas, however, has been much slower than in urban and suburban communities, and as a result a 'digital divide' has opened up between urban and rural areas in terms of the provision of broadband access; and

•that the 'divide' should urgently be closed, and that the Government should now commit itself to a new target, of ensuring that broadband is available to all areas of the United Kingdom within a defined timetable; and that it should commit resources adequate to support the new policy.

The report makes a number of detailed recommendations about how Government should encourage broadband access in rural areas.

The report concludes that in respect of broadband Defra has begun to demonstrate a capacity to be a Department for Rural Affairs, but that if rural areas are not to be disadvantaged compared to urban areas it is vital that Defra acts as a strong advocate for rural broadband.

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Notes for editors

Any inquiries about the report should be directed to the Clerk of the Committee, Gavin Devine, on 020 7219 3263.

The Report follows an inquiry conducted on behalf of the Committee by a Sub-committee chaired by Mr David Borrow MP. The other members of the Sub-committee were Ms Candy Atherton MP, Mr David Curry MP, Mr David Drew MP, Diana Organ MP, and Mr Bill Wiggin MP.

The report is the Committee's Eleventh Report, Session 2002-03, HC 587.

The Report will be available from the usual outlets, including the Stationery Office bookshops, from 11 am. It will be posted on the internet at approximately 3.30 pm on 15 July, and will be accessible at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmenvfru.htm#reports

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Further details of the Committee, including its current membership, can be found on the Committee's homepage at http://www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/environment__food_and_rural_affairs.cfm .  Information about the Committee can also be obtained from 020 7219 3262.