Rory Stewart, MP for Penrith and The Border, has called for the Treasury to quadruple its investment in superfast broadband to stimulate the UK’s flagging economy, a move which would increase total government spend to £2.1bn.
Stewart’s call for more funding follows the government’s announcement in August that it will invest £530m to provide 90% of UK homes with superfast broadband by 2015 and for everyone to have access to a minimum of 2Mbps.
Speaking to Computer Weekly at the Westminster eForum event: Delivering the UK’s Broadband Future, Stewart said: “Industry needs to make the business case to the Treasury that it should quadruple investment in fixed line broadband.
“Making such an investment would be extremely commercially viable. And in the long-term we would see a 20-year return. If we are able to make that case, then the economy stands a good chance for growth. Industry should make the case in a way that understands the terms in which Treasury economists think.”
Stewart is an outspoken campaigner for rural broadband and for increased mobile 4G coverage in the spectrum auction next year. He wants to see Ofcom raise its mobile coverage commitments by 3% to 98% in the 800MHz and 2.6GHz frequency ranges, which would extend coverage to two million more people in rural communities.
Stewart told conference delegates that increased mobile connectivity to local areas remained an important issue. “Our problems of isolation and distance are ideally suited [to increasing the coverage aspirations] not just in terms of business but also [the deployment of] mobile health,” he said.