"Robbing Peter to pay Paul" isn't the answer to rural broadband, says Virgin Media Business

(Image Credit: iStockPhoto/Ershova_Veronika)

The head of the Commons' Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (EFRA) committee has suggested that investment in broadband should be diverted from cities where superfast access is available, and instead used to extend reach to those suffering with slow access in rural areas.

This sentiment was contested by Virgin Media Business' head, Peter Kelly, who disagreed with the idea and said: "You wouldn't rob Peter to pay Paul. Every part of Britain needs fast access to the web, particularly the small businesses who are driving the growth of UK PLC.”

The allocation of funding between urban and rural broadband investment is greatly unbalanced.

Few would disagree with the second part of Kelly's statement, but the first is up for debate. We're not talking about a "steal from the rich and give to the poor" scenario, but EFRA want to ensure that everyone has their fair share and that investment in areas without basic access is increased. It's quite surprising Kelly would publicly challenge this idea.

The Chair of EFRA, Anne McIntosh, told the BBC that rather than “throwing more money” at areas that have superfast broadband (24Mbps+), the government should re-allocate the funds to allow rural communities to get the minimum 2Mbps expected.

Digital economy minister, Ed Vaizey, denied McIntosh's allegations that the government is favouring cities over rural areas and said it is actually doing the opposite.

Every part of Britain needs fast access to the web, particularly the small businesses

EFRA published a damning report on rural broadband which calls-out the government's current minimum speed for basic broadband (2Mbps) as being "outdated" and requiring a new review. The report also said that the allocation of funding between urban and rural broadband investment is "greatly unbalanced".

With more government services being moved online, it is becoming increasingly important that citizens in rural areas are able to access at least basic broadband services. The web also enables businesses to thrive, and is therefore important for the UK economy.

As such, The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) is calling for minimum broadband speeds of 10Mbps by 2018/19 which it wants to rise to 100Mbps by 2030.

Do you think broadband investment in rural areas should be increased? Let us know in the comments.

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