Julian Knight's Westminster Diary, 30/01/20

Solihull Mail

Last Wednesday, I stood up in the House of Commons and challenged Boris Johnson directly about what he and the Government are doing to fix our broadband.

I told him it was unacceptable that many Solihull residents, myself included, struggle to get adequate internet connections – despite living just outside the UK’s second-largest city!

The Prime Minister told me that both he and the Secretary of State for Digital had met recently with all the major broadband providers and “collectively wielded the whip over their heads”, and explained that the Government is investing £5 billion over the next five years into a programme to deliver “gigabit broadband”.

But more needs to be done. Time and again, local residents have raised this with my either in my office or on the doorstep. A strong, reliable broadband link is no longer a nice-to-have but is increasingly being recognised as an essential utility.

Companies in areas with poor connections are placed at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to serving customers online. This can be a real drag on regional economic growth, with knock-on consequences for job creation and more.

Meanwhile for families, slow internet doesn’t just limit their access to modern shopping and entertainment outlets, but also hinders their ability to access the growing range of Government services available through the Gov.uk website.

Broadband providers have failed over and over to deliver on their promises to towns such as Solihull. That’s why I’ve made campaigning on the issue one of my top priorities.

As well as raising it in the House of Commons, I have also made it a central feature of my bid to chair Parliament’s powerful Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Committee, promising to hold quarterly hearings where senior executives and other decision-makers will be held to account my MPs.

I have also just become a vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Broadband, a campaigning body which brings together MPs of different parties from across the country to drive this issue forward.

As home to some of the UK’s biggest exporters, Solihull is a globally-facing town. All our residents need up-to-date broadband, and they need it now.