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ISPA: MPs are talking more about broadband, but there's still lots to do

Friday, February 19th 2016 by Ellen Branagh

MPs and their constituents care more about broadband than ever, according to research carried out by the Internet Service Providers’ Association.

ISPA, which calls itself the voice of the UK internet industry, revealed the growth in political interest in broadband, shown by a surge in the number of times it is referred to by MPs in parliament.

According to ISPA’s analysis, there has been a 75% increase in broadband references between the start of the 2010-15 parliament and the start of the current one.

The association searched Hansard, the official report of Parliamentary proceedings, for ‘broadband’ and compared three points since 2010 to show how the subject has become increasingly important to MPs and to their constituents.

In the nine-month period after the 2010 election, there were 47 mentions of broadband in the Commons, rising to 76 in the nine-month period midway through the 2010-15 parliament (November 2012-July 2013), and 93 in the nine months after the 2015 election, ISPA found.

This marks a 63% rise between the nine months after the 2010 election and the same period after the 2015 election.

The number of written questions on broadband rose from 112 in the period following the 2010 election to 153 midway through the last parliament, and 178 in the same period after the 2015 election – a 59% rise between 2010 and 2015.

And while there were no Westminster Hall debates on broadband after the 2010 election, this rose to one midway through the parliament, and soared to six in the same period after the 2015 election.

ISPA said overall the three categories have seen a 75% increase in broadband discussions, reflecting the importance of broadband in people’s daily lives.

'Essential'

Along with a rise in discussion, the current parliament has also seen a range of select committee inquiries looking at broadband and other issues, it said, while new all-party groups have also been set up to look at issues including broadband.

ISPA put the rising political interest in broadband down to several reasons, including the government-backed rollout, a growing number of questions about broadband from constituents, and newer MPs who are more familiar with technology.

It said it has been meeting MPs from across the UK to help improve their understanding of different providers and broadband technologies such as copper, fibre, wireless and satellite, as well as issues like the broadband rollout and wider internet policy.

It is also helping ISPA members connect with MPs to help constituency campaigns, it said.

But it said there are still some debates ahead, including how to meet the government’s planned 10Mbps Universal Service Obligation (USO), the future regulatory framework in the UK, and how to make rolling out broadband easier.

ISPA chair James Blessing said: “The massive investment in broadband from ISPA members has helped the internet become an essential part of our daily lives and this is reflected in the level of parliamentary interest.

“That isn’t to say broadband rollout isn’t without challenges and I am glad ISPA is proactively connecting ISPs with local MPs on how to bring the transformative effects of broadband to communities throughout the UK.

“We urge any MPs with questions or concerns about broadband to get in touch with ISPA.”

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