Broadband issue needs addressing

Broadband. Picture by Rui Vieira/PA Wire
Broadband. Picture by Rui Vieira/PA Wire

What I receive in my inbox from constituents in terms of matters which affect them is always interesting, as it reflects concerns of people in Hartlepool.

Over the past month I have a large number of emails on two particular topics which may surprise you; one on bees and pesticides, which understandably are getting a lot of people in Hartlepool in a buzz (sorry - couldn’t resist), given how pollination affects our food supply, and the second topic, which I want to focus on today, is ensuring that people have the internet and broadband service suitable for a modern age.

Increasingly our lives are dominated by technology. Matters such as watching a film or television programme are now a question of streaming.

Speaking to friends or family might have just a few short years ago been a question of having a very expensive phone call once in a blue moon, now can be regular and at times free thanks to developments such as Skype.

In addition, business and employment are being transformed through technology: new businesses can be set up at home, and more and more people may be able to work from home, using technology to stay in touch just as easily as if they were in an office.

Such changes to society and the economy require a good infrastructure.

Increasingly, in a modern economy like Britain, a fast and reliable broadband service is becoming as important a utility and infrastructure component as energy or transport.

Yet one in four people in this country are not happy with their internet service. Two-thirds of people feel let down by their broadband connection at least once a month.

I see this a lot with individual cases from constituents, particularly from the likes of villages such as Dalton Piercy and Elwick, although it affects people in the urban centre of Hartlepool too.

Research carried out by Fix Britain’s Internet, states that slow broadband has left the majority of people unable to perform basic online tasks from their home, such as chatting on Skype, streaming a movie, shopping online or working from home.

Some people might shout, oh dear, first world problems. But isn’t that precisely the point? We should be in the leading group of prosperous economies, with an infrastructure and prosperity to match, yet businesses will not invest in areas where there is a slow or unreliable broadband service.

If you’re an engineer working on complex plans for an oil rig in the North Sea and you need to send a large e-mail, you will be reluctant to commit to living or working in an area that can’t send large files in a rapid and reliable fashion. You will set up shop or move somewhere else.

In the same way that skills are the real passport to success in the future for individuals, communities will succeed or fail through having access to good and fast internet connections.

That is why it is so important that Hartlepool and its surrounding areas have access to good broadband.

It’s why I will continue to press BT and Openreach to invest more in the area and why I plan to see Ministers in the next month or so to push for better and faster broadband for our area.