Supporting Superfast Broadband in Cornwall

Nearly a year ago, the Digital Economy Minister, Ed Vaizey MP, wrote to Cornwall Council encouraging the leadership to ensure that new build housing developments include provision for superfast broadband connectivity.

As the letter said, “Advanced high quality superfast broadband is essential for sustainable economic growth. Government and local authorities are investing £1.7 billion to bring superfast broadband to 95% or more of the United Kingdom by 2017.

“You have a crucial role to play in supporting this ambitious target through your Local Plans and when considering planning applications to ensure wherever possible commercial and residential new builds are able to access superfast broadband. The policy on this is set out in the National Planning Policy Framework.”

“The Framework also requires local planning authorities, in preparing and reviewing Local Plans to work with providers to assess the quality and capacity of infrastructure of strategic priority in your area and its ability to meet forecasted demands. Policy places the provision of telecommunications alongside other key infrastructure such as roads and utilities.”

Some local authorities, have already brought in policies requiring all new build homes to have access to broadband. Despite my pressing for action from Cornwall Council, sadly too many local new build projects fail to ensure a good level of superfast broadband availability.

The Government’s planned introduction of a Universal Service Obligation, similar to obligations put on other essential utilities providers such as water and electricity as well as this week’s announcement of a voluntary agreement between BT and big house builders are important steps forward. A forthcoming EU requirement will mean that from 2017, all new buildings need to be “high-speed broadband ready.”

But what we need right now is Cornwall Council to use its existing powers and take action to support residents and small businesses in getting broadband.

Published by West Briton.