Access to reliable mobile and internet services is one of the most important issues affecting my constituents. I made improvement of the inadequate service a key issue in my re-election campaign.
Local businesses need to be able to communicate instantly and effectively and it is not just existing businesses that this affects. There is a real impact on inward investment as businesses take the decision not to set up in an area with a poor signal. Not only is a good signal important for local business to thrive, it is even more vital to ensure access to the emergency services. No matter where you are in the county, you should be able to call for an ambulance, the fire service or the police without fear that you may not get a signal; the current lack of mobile phone reception puts lives at risk. Quite simply the current system was designed for voice traffic and is now being swamped with a deluge of data from photos and videos. New infrastructure is needed to meet demand. Work to upgrade is simply not keeping up with this unforeseen extra demand. New infrastructure is needed to bring us up to speed with the rest of the country by ensuring the roll out of 4G locally.
I was therefore pleased to attend a meeting with representatives from Vodafone in the House of Commons earlier this month. This gave me the opportunity to make it clear that the service locally is actually getting worse and it is simply not acceptable for my constituents to be disadvantaged. It is impossible to maintain a signal between the five North Shropshire market towns on any network; in my experience they are all as bad as each other. Residents travelling between towns should not have to put up with being cut off. I am pleased that the representatives from Vodafone listened carefully to my feedback on the current service. The event gave them a chance to explain their plans for future improvements and also to give suggestions as to how I can help further.
Progress is being made. Thousands of people signed the Get Us Connected petition calling for EE, Vodafone, Three and O2 to improve their service in rural areas. Networks are beginning to respond. Vodafone claim that they will bring their service to 98 per cent of the UK population as soon as possible, a positive step for North Shropshire if it can be achieved. I have arranged a follow up meeting in mid-October to discuss this further and will meet a delegation from BT at the Conservative Party Conference. All Mobile Network Providers have been invited by Connecting Shropshire to attend a meeting in December to share news of their plans for Shropshire.
I am determined to resolve this issue once and for all and would encourage my constituents to get in touch with me and share their experiences as I continue my campaign.