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fibre broadband 3

The government has been urged to speed up efforts to improve broadband connectivity in rural areas.

According to the CLA, the government's commitment to a broadband universal service obligation - which would ensure everyone can access minimum speeds of 10Mbps by 2020 - was a "major breakthrough" for rural broadband campaigners.

However, it believes the timeframe remains too long and has questioned whether the minimum speed will be sufficient in the future.

Furthermore, the CLA is unsure whether adequate investment has been planned in new infrastructure to replace existing copper-based systems.

The CLA was responding to a highly critical report by the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, which said BT has significantly underinvested in Openreach and exploited its position to make strategic decisions that favour its own priorities and interests.

BT was warned that if it fails to offer the reforms and investment assurances necessary to satisfy its concerns, sector watchdog Ofcom should "move to enforce full separation of Openreach".

Tim Breitmeyer, Deputy President of the CLA, commented: "MPs have challenged government and BT to rethink their long-standing strategy of targeting the easiest to reach premises first and their reliance on the existing copper wire network rather than fibre-optic, mobile or other wireless connection methods. 

"MPs are right to point out the risks of this strategy in failing to end the digital divide between our towns and countryside."

Mr Breitmeyer insisted that rural communities and small alternative providers need immediate clarity from Openreach regarding its fibre rollout plans and how far they will extend.

This, he stated, will enable them to look at other solutions if necessary.

Mr Breitmeyer added that clear targets regarding the replacement and upgrading of infrastructure need to be included in the universal service obligation.

"We do not have to accept a model whereby our rural areas wait in line behind urban centres, and we won’t," he said.

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