Over the past few months, Mid Sussex District Council has been encouraging the local community to come forward with proposals that promote the sustainability of their local area. In consultation with the Mid Sussex Partnership, local residents identified poor broadband internet provision in rural areas as a major issue for local people and called for Central Government to intervene.
Mid Sussex District Council has submitted a proposal on behalf of its residents for the provision of broadband internet services to be made the subject of a legal minimum requirement, the same as other infrastructure services like water. This proposal, along with others made by Councils around the country, is being considered for a final short list of ideas to be presented to Central Government Ministers.
Mid Sussex is a predominantly rural area with the vast majority of residents living in rural settlements or market towns. Currently, the provision of broadband internet is unequal and subject to market forces. Those living in rural areas experience a less affordable and reliable broadband service compared to people who live in major towns and cities and this creates two particular problems in rural areas.
- It deprives businesses, particularly micro businesses and small to medium size enterprises, of the opportunity to compete on an equal footing with many of their urban counterparts locally, regionally, nationally and internationally.
- It creates a ‘Digital Divide' for those communities and individuals who cannot receive affordable and reliable broadband by excluding them from online activities and opportunities.
Supporting new businesses and dealing with the impacts of climate change are two key priorities for the Mid Sussex Partnership. Improved access to broadband internet services in rural areas would help to boost economic vitality and protect the environment by reducing pollution.
The proposal could help more residents to work from home, reducing the need for commuting by car and subsequently reducing CO2 emissions. In the current economic climate, small and rural businesses in Mid Sussex need all the help, guidance and promotion available. The provision of a reliable broadband service to rural areas would aid business growth and start-ups.
"I'm encouraged to see local residents taking the opportunity to engage with Government and thinking of ways they can make Mid Sussex an even better place to live," said Cllr Christopher Snowling, Cabinet Member for Health and Community. "This process has given our residents the opportunity to raise an issue that is important to them and they have shown Central Government what they would like to be done.
"People living in rural areas deserve the same level of infrastructure as those living in major towns and cities. Equal broadband internet provision encourages commuters to work from home, reducing congestion and CO2 emissions, and will allow our rural businesses to compete with urban companies on a level playing field."
The next meeting of the Mid Sussex Partnership is at Martlets Hall, Burgess Hill on Wednesday 30 September 2009. The meeting takes place from 10am until 2pm and any local group or organisation with an interest in the local area is welcome to attend. All interested parties can contact Paul Turner, MSDC Community Planning Officer on 01444 477360 or email PaulMT@midsussex.gov.uk.
1 September 2009