Jesse Norman opened a packed Westminster Hall debate today (6 January) on the subject of phone and broadband coverage in Herefordshire.
Jesse described mobile phones and broadband as a ‘lifeline' for rural communities and essential for business, and he called on the Government to recognise and prioritise the particular needs of customers in rural areas who suffer from the combined bad mobile and broadband coverage together.
In a wide-ranging speech, Jesse drew on the experience of over a thousand people living and working in his Hereford and South Herefordshire constituency who had contacted him to tell of their experiences of partial or total mobile not-spots. He also explained how many of these same constituents are unable to use online services that people with better connections are able to take for granted, such as online banking and voice-over-internet calls. Colleagues from rural constituencies across the country spoke up in support of the motion and joined Jesse’s call for a longer debate in the House of Commons chamber.
Speaking outside Westminster Hall, Jesse said: “I entirely reject the argument that mobile phone or broadband coverage are luxuries, or that extending coverage should not be the concern of government. This is nonsense, and it has rightly been rejected by Ministers.
“I was particular pleased that the Minister said that the Government fully recognised rural needs, and had recently “put a rocket up” the Mobile Infrastructure Project, which has identified ten potential sites in Herefordshire.
“Today’s debate underlines just how bad the problems created by poor communications are for many people living in rural locations, and I was delighted that so many of my colleagues spoke up in support of the motion. The Government has taken some important steps recently, including the new agreement on tackling partial mobile phone not-spots, but we must continue to make the case for concerted action and a renewed focus on rural areas with the toxic combination of both bad mobile and bad broadband services.
“I am hugely grateful to the hundreds of Herefordians who contacted me with their experiences, and will now be seeking a longer debate on the floor of the House.”