We are placed at an enormous competitive disadvantage in North Shropshire by the lack of efficient broadband and mobile telephone coverage. It is impossible to maintain a signal between the five market towns on any network and improving this is key to the majority of local people who rely on mobile telephones and the internet. Residents travelling between towns should not have to put up with being cut off and the safety of my constituents should not be compromised by the inability to call for the police, fire service or an ambulance in an emergency.
I strongly believe that nothing would have a more spectacular effect on the rural economy than the rollout of broadband. Connecting Shropshire expect to have 93% of homes and businesses covered by 2018, 92% of which are expected to be at superfast speeds.
I put improving communications at the heart of my re-election campaign and continue to work with the industry, Government and Shropshire Council’s Connecting Shropshire, to make my constituents’ case for improving the actively worsening service that we endure on a daily basis.
I organised a meeting in Westminster this week with representatives from BT and Vodafone, to establish how the two companies can work together to improve the speed and quality of the service. The meeting was constructive and we found several areas where I could help by liaising with Government Ministers. They were also able to agree to try and cooperate on areas, such as the siting of masts and enhancing of masts, where they are not currently working as efficiently together as they could.
I am pleased that progress is being made and that Vodafone’s coverage is expected to be significantly better by 2017. It is still not good enough that some of my constituents suffer no signal at all and I would ask anyone in that position to contact my office giving me their postcode so that I can put them in touch with BT to explore their “Never Say No” initiative which aims to provide faster broadband to rural communities such as North Shropshire. This initiative hopes to help bolster speeds and widen coverage by exploring funding and technical solutions.
There is still much to do and I will be meeting representatives from Connecting Shropshire early next year to assess progress and discuss what else needs to be done to make sure my constituents receive phone and broadband communications fit for the 21st century.