The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) has called on the government to make a legally binding agreement to meet its broadband goals by 2015 as it raised fears the targets would not be met.
In a report published today – Broadband Fit for Rural Growth – the CLA proposed a universal service obligation to ensure everyone in the UK has 2Mbps broadband connections by 2015.
The government has already agreed to the 2Mbps roll-out timeline but, by signing up to an obligation, the association said it would remove any “get out clause” it had if the target was missed.
“We are calling on the government to step up and agree to a universal service obligation rather than just a commitment,” said Harry Cotterell, president of the CLA.
“There is no legal sanction behind a universal service commitment – it provides the government with a get-out clause if the benchmark is not achieved, and it is very unlikely it will be achieved by 2015.”
Cotterell claimed the goal of having the best broadband in Europe by 2015 was unlikely to be realised and called on other rural organisations to rally behind its proposal to put more pressure on government.
“We have set out our first-ever rural broadband policy because we believe the government must do more to help the countryside,” Cotterell said.
“By seeking to form a strategic alliance with other rural interest groups to agree common objectives, we can help to deliver a comprehensive broadband strategy.”
A spokesman from the department for culture, media and sport, charged with managing broadband policy, agreed on the importance of the technology, saying it was essential for economic growth.
However, while he said the government was making good progress towards meeting the 2Mbps and 2015 targets, the spokesman did not respond directly to the CLA’s proposals.
Other suggestions made in the CLA report included allowing rural communities to use public sector broadband networks and asking the department for environment, food and rural affairs to re-examine the rural community broadband fund, to ensure local businesses were able to access it.