Lewes MP welcomes proposal to extend mobile coverage to hard-to-reach areas

Lewes MP Maria Caulfield  in the House of Commons
Lewes MP Maria Caulfield in the House of Commons

A proposal to extend mobile coverage to hard-to-reach areas has been welcomed by MP Maria Caulfield.

The Lewes MP is one of a group of 78 cross-party MPs representing rural constituencies urging the Government to support the proposal.

The proposal – a shared rural network – was put forward by the four Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) after the MPs called on the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Jeremy Wright, to support it.

The shared rural network would significantly improve rural coverage, the MPs say, and enhance economic, educational and leisure opportunities in rural areas where, in some cases, there is no coverage at all.

Mrs Caulfield said: “I welcome these new proposals because it will provide a much needed solution in a more efficient, more effective and a less environmentally impactful way than current proposals.

“The lack of mobile coverage in some of the most rural parts of the Lewes constituency will vastly increase operational coverage for many constituents in both their working and home lives.

“The current inadequate digital connectivity has had a huge impact on growth for the local, regional and national economy and needs to be put right as soon as possible.”

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The MPs sent a letter to Mr Wright. It reads: “Whilst we have previously written to you in support of roaming, we see industry’s proposal for a shared rural network as potentially another effective way of extending mobile coverage and believe it should replace Ofcom’s coverage proposals because, in part, it has the support of all four MNOs.

“We also see the ask of £620m from the Government to build these masts as better value for taxpayers’ money, when you take into consideration the potential £800m discount Ofcom had planned to offer just two operators at the next auction and would instead urge Government to invest that discount in improving coverage.”

The MPs are also supporting the industry’s call for the reform of Permitted Development Rights to allow for taller masts, equivalence in policy with fixed broadband such as business rates relief in line with those for new fixed fibre networks and also better access to public sector sites and land.