Chris Loder, MP for West Dorset, made rural connectivity and better broadband speeds key priorities during his recent election campaign. On 13th January the MP met with Matt Warman MP, the Minister for Digital Infrastructure, and explained the challenges faced by West Dorset’s communities who are hindered by lack of fast broadband and reliable mobile phone coverage.
Whether running a small business, keeping in touch with family and friends, live streaming radio and entertainment programmes, accessing email and online services - everyday life for most of us depends on being able to access reliable internet and mobile reception. In many areas of West Dorset this is virtually non-existent. Local communities are often excluded from the advances in digital technology and, for too long, rural villages and towns have had to tolerate appalling connectivity while larger cities and conurbations reap all the benefits.
This is set to change after today’s announcement that a bid led by Dorset Council has been awarded £4.335m to help understand how rural communities could benefit from next generation mobile connectivity. The Dorset project is one of seven across the UK to be funded by the Government’s Rural Connected Communities competition over the next two years. A consortium of council, local, national and international partners plan to show that mobile infrastructure can be delivered cost effectively and sensitively to benefit rural businesses and communities.
In a statement, Chris Loder said:
“I made an election commitment to West Dorset; to bring significant improvement to our mobile network. I have been lobbying Ministers on rural connectivity since I was first elected and I’m delighted that this work is paying off. Government is finally putting West Dorset higher up the agenda after so long trailing behind others. This is great news, especially for small rural businesses who struggle with current provision. I shall continue to press the Government for these improvements to be brought in without delay.”
The total cost of the 5G RuralDorset initiative is £6.675m with the council contributing £150,000. The rest will come from industry and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. Four trials in the county will look at innovative public, social and business uses of improved mobile coverage. They will test whether this connectivity can be delivered cheaper and quicker using existing masts, buildings and fibre wherever possible to minimise visual and other impacts. The project will start in March 2020 and is due to be completed by end of March 2022.
20th February 2020
[Image: Chris Loder MP for West Dorset, with Matt Warman MP, Minister for Digital Infrastructure]