Ofcom ducks rural broadband responsibility
Ofcom has come under fire from business leaders, after claiming it’s powerless to force broadband providers into rural areas.
David Collier, chairman of Business Voice West Midlands, wrote to the telecoms regulator, complaining that a lack of rural broadband access was costing jobs.
“The longer the digital divide continues between those businesses who have broadband connections and those businesses lacking such connections, the worse it will be for rural communities where local job opportunities will be severely harmed,” he warned, according to a report in the Birmingham Post.
It does seem to us that Ofcom now has the authority to ensure that telecoms providers take on board their public service obligations and require that broadband coverage is at last provided in outlying rural areas
“This state of affairs is holding back the competitiveness of rural businesses and therefore making some rural communities unsustainable as e-commerce is now an everyday part of business life.”
Collier wrote to Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards, asking for a meeting to discuss the issue, but was sent a written reply claiming that the regulator doesn’t have the power “to oblige communications providers to introduce such services into any particular area of the UK”.
Collier then raised the issue with MEPs, who pointed him towards guidelines in the Citizens Rights Directive, which state: “connections to the network at a fixed location should be capable of supporting data communications at rates sufficient for access to online services such as those provided via the public internet.”
Although the directive specifically fails to mandate a minimum speed, it states that lines must “support satisfactory data rates, which are sufficient to permit functional internet access.”
Mr Collier is urging Ofcom to use the powers. “It does seem to us that Ofcom now has the authority to ensure that telecoms providers take on board their public service obligations and require that broadband coverage is at last provided in outlying rural areas across the West Midlands region,” he told the newspaper.