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Double win for Cumbria as MP raises broadband and mobile coverage with Culture Secretary

December 20, 2011 3:23 PM

South Lakes MP Tim Farron has won assurances from Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt that Cumbria will not be left out in the cold in the upcoming 4G Spectrum auction.

In a meeting between Jeremy Hunt and Liberal Democrat back bench MPs, Tim questioned the Secretary of State on Government plans for the auction, pushing for an approach that ensures maximum coverage, not maximum profit. Farron gave the example of the Swedish 3G auction, where companies were required to cover less popular areas as part of bids for more profitable areas - in the UK this could mean for example, tying high population areas such as Greater Manchester with more dispersed rural areas such as the Lake District in the same bid. Jeremy Hunt was sympathetic to Tim's proposal, recognizing the importance of increasing coverage across the country.

In the same meeting, Tim questioned the Culture Secretary on his plans to ensure that the £530m made available for superfast broadband will put local interests first. Jeremy Hunt revealed that the Government is delivering the funding directly to local authorities, who will be required to submit a draft Local Broadband Plan to the Government. In cases where a local authority fails to produce a final plan by July, the Government will consider national procurement. Tim was pleased to get assurance that the Government would look to impose superfast broadband on areas if the local council did not deliver properly.

Commenting, Tim said: "This is exciting news. Not only will 90% of homes and business in Cumbria get superfast broadband, but the case for 4G mobile broadband coverage is looking more hopeful too.

I'm very encouraged to hear that the Government understands the value of local ownership of broadband, but also has a contingency plan prepared for those cases where local authorities are not able to take control. It's crucial for the development of rural areas like South Lakes that coverage is increased at the same time as the rest of the country - not ten years later."