Harriet Harman attacks government record on broadband connectivity

Deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman MP has accused the current government of "ignoring people's concerns over internet connectivity".

In a speech to the Parliament and Internet conference, she said that Ed Vaizey MP was "coasting" in his role as culture and digital economy minister and "in denial" over the success of government projects to expand mobile and broadband availability.

Harman criticised the government's decision to focus on superfast broadband speeds over widespread availability, saying that completing broadband rollout "is the most efficient infrastructure investment by a mile".

She said that citizens and businesses were "frustrated at Westminster for failing to provide basic connectivity" and claimed that Vaizey is currently "sweeping these complaints aside".

Harman said that the minister had described the rural broadband scheme as "fantastic" despite patchy success with BT acting as a monopoly provider to the scheme.

She also took aim at the 'Mobile Infrastructure Project', a government scheme to bring coverage to mobile 'black spot' areas.

The project deadline has been pushed back from a deadline of March 2015 until at least spring 2016, after it led to just two base stations being built since it was launched three years ago.

"That was described as 'pioneering' by the minister [Ed Vaizey] but it has failed," she said.

In a speech at the same event, Vaizey responded by describing the broadband rollout as the most important part of his ministerial portfolio.

He defended a focus on superfast broadband and pointed to government plans to invest £1.7 billion in rural broadband rollout.

He said: "We took a view in 2010 that 2 Mbps was not ambitious enough and we wanted a target for superfast broadband. I still hear from people receiving 7 Mbps that their internet speeds are not fast enough. So we're working to bring superfast broadband to as many as possible."

Vaizey claimed the scheme is "gaining momentum" with more than one million properties now benefitting from faster internet speeds.

He added that the government extended its target from 90 percent to 95 percent of homes to have access to have internet speeds of more than 24 Mbps by 2017.

However Vaizey did not respond to Harman's accusations on rural broadband or mobile coverage.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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