In 2016, the average person spends 30 hours on the internet every month. I believe that basic broadband is now a necessity, not a luxury - and one of my key priorities as an MP is to secure it for those properties that are currently 'too rural' or 'too remote' to be reached cost effectively by commercial solutions.
Between 2010 and 2015, the Coalition Government invested £1.7 billion to extend superfast broadband. In 2010, barely half the country had access to superfast connections, and by 2017, 95% of the UK will benefit from the increased speeds that are now vital to our economy.
The initial funding for Wiltshire's superfast programme was some £35m to reach 91% of the premises within the county. Since then, further funding has been committed to extend programmes to reach 95% of the population (which will allow the project to proceed to phase 2). Once the funding is committed to Local Authorities, it is for them to work out the best 'intervention area' for the programme, and their goal is to use the funding they have to benefit the maximum number of properties.
The focus has now rightly shifted to the options available to the final 5% who will not benefit from this expansion. This includes businesses and homes within my constituency who are too far away from their nearest fibre cabinets to feel the benefit of a superfast connection and those who cannot even be connected because the costs are so high.
The Government's new Digital Economy Bill will introduce a new Universal Service Obligation (USO) of 10 mbps, ensuring that a superfast service becomes the bare minimum rather than a gold standard. In addition to this, regulations are changing so that new developments will need to be provided with a superfast connection: a change I campaigned for in the last Parliament.