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Government will order broadband firms to provide fast services to rural communities; David Cameron is set to announce that even the remotest rural household and business will have a right to fast broadband services.

Byline: Jonathan Walker

Internet companies will be forced to provide high-speed broadband to everyone in the country, David Cameron is to announce.

It follows warnings that rural communities including those in parts of Northumberland have been left behind while the rest of the country enjoys the benefit of super-fast broadband.

MPs from across the North East have been campaigning for better broadband services, amid warnings that poor internet connection was damaging the economy in some rural areas.

Charity Go ON UK published a report last month revealing that 13.8% of households in Northumberland so not having access to broadband at speeds of at least two megabits per second, and 17.9% of adults in the county have never been online.

The Prime Minister will announce on Monday that there will be a Universal Service Obligation for the provision of broadband at speeds of at least 10Mbps.

This means that firms will be obliged to provide it to everyone who asks for it and cannot refuse on the grounds of cost. A similar system is in place for other key services such as the postal service and electricity.

In practice, BT will be required to provide infrastructure as its cables are used by other internet service providers.

Mr Cameron said: "Access to the internet shouldn't be a luxury; it should be a right -- absolutely fundamental to life in 21st century Britain.

"That is why I'm announcing a giant leap in my digital mission for Britain.

"Just as our forebears effectively brought gas, electricity and water to all, we're going to bring fast broadband to every home and business that wants it.

"That's right: we're getting Britain -- all of Britain -- online, and on the way to becoming the most prosperous economy in the whole of Europe."

The Government will launch a consultation on the Universal Service Obligation plan in early 2016.

Newcastle Central MP Chi Onwurah criticised the Government's failure to provide fast broadband internet in every part of the country when she spoke in the House of Commons in October.

She said: "The internet provides social benefits. Online shopping is often cheaper, and the internet opens up access to public and private services.

"It is not right that some people cannot access Government services for which they pay or, even worse, that they are penalised for not being able to access them online, whether they are farmers or people on benefits trying to sign on and do their job hunting online.

"The internet opens up a world of free education and is a window on the globe."

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Publication:The Chronicle (Newscastle upon Tyne, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Nov 7, 2015
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