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Rural broadband will just benefit the rich, says Labour MP

By
Cow

© Rex Features / Shara Henderson / Mood Board

Upgrading fixed line broadband access in rural areas is a waste of money because it will only benefit the "wealthy", a Labour MP has claimed.

Graham Jones, the MP for Haslingden and Hyndburn, said that deprived and poor people "do not live in rural Lancashire".

The Conservative-run Lancashire Council is investing £32m in upgrading broadband so that homes and businesses in rural parts of the country can access fast internet.

But Jones feels that this is a 'rural Tory broadband issue', and the investment would be better passed to "industrial areas where the benefits would have been far greater".

He added: "I look around the Ribble Valley and parts of Wyre and see a large population of retirees and wealthy escapees.

"People whom it has to be said have made a choice to live away from urban areas, away from advantages of an urban area.

"There is no escaping the fact that these areas have vast numbers of wealthy people who will benefit enormously and who could afford to pay for super fast rural broadband themselves."

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Jones made the comments on a blog on his website, which has since been taken down, but not before being reported by Farmers Weekly and The Daily Telegraph.

In the post, the MP claimed that investment in broadband will not bring jobs to the area, as new businesses were unlikely to move to a place where access was poor and they were unlikely to get planning permission.

"This case would have merit if deprived or poor people lived in Lancashire's rural area, but they do not," wrote Jones.

He continued: "Farming has existed without the internet for eternity and mobile devices and 4G will be of greater significance than landline superfast rural broadband.

"The reality is, much of Lancashire's rural hinterland is a playground for the wealthy and that's the problem."

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However, the Countryside Alliance described Jones's comments as 'criminal'.

The group said that people in the countryside need fast broadband just as much as those in urban areas.

Sarah Lee, the Countryside Alliance's head of policy, declared: "Graham Jones has criminally missed the point of these plans.

"In a digital age the need for fast and reliable broadband is just as important as the need for gas, electricity and water.

Harriet Harman
"People need to access more services online, especially critical Government services; businesses need the internet for growth; and much of everyday communication now occurs online."

Jones's comments also contrast with statements made by Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman earlier in the year, after she chastised the coalition for not doing enough to bring fast broadband to rural areas.

"The government can talk about ultra-fast and super-fast, hyper-fast and mega-fast, all (it) likes but what is happening is the creation of a digital underclass," she said.

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