In the past year I’ve made considerable inroads on getting faster broadband speeds for West Dorset; a campaign of even greater importance at a time when we are all so dependent on digital technology to work and learn from home. I’ve pushed the Digital Minister, Matt Warman, on this in the House of Commons and had a number of meetings with him, taking the lead on behalf of all Dorset MPs. I'm also in ongoing dialogue with Dorset Council.
In addition, I have been working with Openreach to encourage Community Fibre Partnerships, where residents and local businesses combine forces in their area, with the help of Government voucher schemes, grants and local authority support. This has already worked well in several areas, including Beaminster where we have been able to extend the scheme to include Mapperton.
During my speech in the House of Commons on 3rd December 2020 (see YouTube video above), I said:
Amidst the green and pleasant lands of rural Dorset and the rolling hills of West Dorset, I regret to tell the House there is a desert. I am afraid that is a broadband desert. Why? Because the most rural parts of Dorset have been falling further and further behind on digital connectivity for years. I think the Minister here today knows full well, probably to the digit, my own broadband speed, from our most recent correspondence. For the House’s record, it is 1.4 megabits per second, and he knows how I feel about the fact that, in London, it is in excess of 200 megabits per second download speed. What starker contrast can there be?
Community Fibre Partnerships
Following my most recent meeting with Openreach, I understand a new Community Fibre scheme (CFP) launches in April 2021. If you have poor internet connectivity, you can use the Openreach community fibre checker to identify whether you might benefit from this.
A CFP is where Openreach works with a local group of homes or businesses to bring superfast or ultrafast to an area. Where possible funding is combined from Local Authorities, Government voucher schemes and other grants to help make things affordable - plus Openreach contributes towards the cost in line with its own commercial model too.
For more information, including on what grants are available, visit the Openreach Community Fibre website