Joy Morrissey MP spoke about broadband speeds in the constituency in the debate on Digital Infrastructure, Connectivity and Accessibility.
Joy Morrissey: I thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Tatton (Esther McVey) for securing this debate and my hon. Friend the Member for North Devon (Selaine Saxby) for her work on the all-party group on broadband and digital communication.
In Beaconsfield, connectivity varies from less than 2 megabits per second to 50 megs. For those who are not savvy in that talk, that is slow—very slow. I have various cases in Beaconsfield where an area was on a programme to be upgraded to super-fast, which is still in the 70 meg range, then a cabinet was not upgraded so the house can achieve only 30 to 50 megs while the next-door neighbour, being served by another cabinet, has less than 2 megs. Forget about Netflix, online learning, a Zoom call or working from home effectively with internet speeds that slow. Not only in Beaconsfield
but nationwide, this is an issue that many Members across the House are facing. Covid and the working from home scenario has brought to light a lot of the disparities in digital connectivity. I thank all Members for participating in this debate today.
Effectively, the term “the last mile”—the last leg of the connection to the customer—is what needs to be addressed. This needs to be done to offer as much technology equality as possible and aid in the levelling-up agenda across the country. Technology equality would help not only in the north or in Beaconsfield but in every part of the country where we are struggling to find the technology to work from home effectively. In some areas, this technology is non-existent. Constituents are unable to be competitive in today’s workforce. Not having fast broadband will impede those looking for work in the covid era. Applying for jobs online is more difficult and challenging with a lack of speed. A speed as low as 2 megs means that people cannot take part in a Zoom call, so they cannot interview for a job. This is not equal opportunities or equal access. Even in entertainment, they can forget about watching the current season of “The Crown” or anything else during covid, and cannot speak to their family and friends on Zoom. In education, as the hon. Member for Ilford North (Wes Streeting) said, digital connectivity and speed affect the ability to access educational materials, and this has really been demonstrated during the covid pandemic.
We need to be faster and better, and let us open up the market so that we can have more than one provider competing for each area’s interests. Let us get the boxes up and running, and then we can pay to plug in as and when. Post Brexit, we need to be competitive on both a personal level and a business level. We require connectivity for everyone. Estonia, for example, has this collectively everywhere across the entire country, even in its woodland areas. Everyone, from the oldest lady—the grandmother—to the youngest child, has access to digital connectivity. I hope that we will be doing the same post Brexit.