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'Don't leave Cumbria out of the loop' says Farron as OFCOM gears up for mobile broadband auction

March 14, 2012 1:05 PM

 (Tim broadband photo)Cumbrian MP Tim Farron has raised concerns that the Government is showing a lack of political will to stop widening inequalities between rural and urban communities, as proposals for new mobile broadband spectrum could leave at least half a million without coverage.

With service providers preparing to bid for 4G mobile broadband spectrum in the largest ever U.K auction of its kind, Ofcom has launched a second consultation on the auction of 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz after an initial proposal to guarantee only 95% coverage was criticised. However, Farron believes the Government's reluctance to ensure universal coverage is due to a lack of political will, rather than technical obstacles.

Ofcom's current proposals would require successful licences to provide at least 98% coverage or to match the extension of 2G coverage to 99%, yet in countries such as Sweden have guaranteed universal coverage through clever structuring of their auctions.

Following concerns that a growing digital divide could see rural communities falling ever further behind, Farron has written to the Select Committee for Culture, Media and Sport to put pressure on Ofcom to make sure that rural communities are not left out in the cold or stuck with a service monopoly.

Commenting, Tim said "There are worrying gaps in the 4G proposals as they currently stand. For isolated Cumbrian Hotels, providing a decent internet connection is not a luxury - it's the difference between surviving and folding. It's clear that as the rest of the U.K runs away with quicker and more accessible broadband, those areas which are not covered will face increasing isolation.

"Our rural communities are the hidden gems of our economy but they are absolutely essential to it. We cannot leave them out in the cold through a lack of political will and I am urging the Government and Ofcom to give our rural communities the fighting chance they deserve."