I appreciate how important broadband is to both individuals and businesses and I can assure you that access to superfast broadband is a key priority for this Government. Reliable, fast broadband is now seen as the norm, not a nice-to-have. It underpins economic growth, especially rural areas like Taunton Deane, and allows homes to function in a digital age. Over 94 per cent of UK premises were able to connect to superfast broadband before Christmas, and we were on track to reach 95 per cent by the end of 2017. However I recognise that more needs to be done to ensure that all parts of the country have the access to the broadband they need.
Focus is now on the "final 5 per cent" - those areas in the hardest to reach places in the UK that are not covered by existing plans. Measures the Government is taking in this area include the introduction of a Universal Service Obligation (USO), so every premises in the country will have access to broadband at a minimum speed of at least 10Mbps by 2020. This speed allows a household to watch video on demand, use social media, shop online and work from home.
In the summer, the Government received a proposal from BT to deliver universal broadband through a voluntary agreement. Having considered this in detail, Ministers did not feel the proposal was strong enough to take the regulatory USO off the table, and have therefore decided not to pursue BT's proposal in favour of providing a legal right to broadband. I believe that only a regulatory USO offers sufficient certainty and the legal enforceability that is required to ensure high speed broadband access for the whole of the UK by 2020.
Please be aware that I have been working hard on this issue since my election in 2015. I regularly meet with businesses and communities in Taunton Deane and feed local concerns and suggestions back to both Ministers and locally, Connecting Devon and Somerset. I have been encouraging both BT and Connecting Devon and Somerset to work together and use the new technologies available to help connect all those in Taunton Deane who currently do not have access to superfast broadband.
I understand just how frustrating it is to have a bad broadband connection. Broadband is a modern necessity, and the Government is working hard to ensure that the whole of Britain has the broadband that it needs.
Thank you again if you have contacted me on this very important issue and please do contact me if you have an individual concern about your broadband connection.