Maria Caulfield MP and other members of the APPG For Rural Businesses from across the House of Commons have signed a joint letter to the Chief Executive of Ofcom regarding rural mobile phone coverage.
The letter comes ahead of the upcoming sale of the 700Mhz spectrum and following Ofcom’s announcement of its intended coverage obligations in December 2018. This includes a reduction of spectrum cost in return for maximising coverage, a 90% 4G geographic coverage target and the announcement of 500 new mobile masts in rural areas which, has the opportunity to revolutionise coverage across the countryside.
The APPG for Rural Businesses are greatly concerned by how the mobile operators will be monitored during the time period of the obligations (2020-2024) and that it will be only at the end of this date, when the operators have to provide evidence that they have built the proposed masts. Ofcom has acknowledged across several reports that mobile operators are reluctant to build masts in rural areas due to significant cost involvement required, therefore it seems irresponsible for there to be a lack of monitoring during this period.
Ofcom in its proposals for the spectrum sale, describes its desire to be more transparent to the consumer about the level of coverage available from the mobile operators, and progress being made to improve. The APPG believes that Ofcom must incorporate progress on this obligation within the annual Connected Nations report in order to deliver on its intentions to assure consumers and rural people that improvements are being made to 4G availability.
Maria Caulfield MP said “With many parts of the Lewes constituency such as Ditchling, East Dean, and various other villages having poor or no mobile phone coverage it is vital for businesses and residents are able to have reliable high quality mobile phone coverage. This is why I have signed a letter to the Chief Executive of Ofcom calling for improved transparency and much more regular checks on its progression to improve rural mobile phone coverage.”
“This is an issue that I know is of great importance in the more rural parts of the Lewes constituency and I will keep working to improve their mobile and broadband connectivity.”