Thank you for contacting me about your broadband.
Upon election I made it one of my main priorities to address broadband issues in North Devon.
We have had some good news recently from both Openreach and Airband where they are now starting to install Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) to some areas. While I welcome this, I recognise that this only addresses a small number of constituents and it is only a start.
I welcome the commitments that this Government has made but it is action we want to see, and I want to assure you that there is still a lot more to do and I intend to continue the fight.
In the meantime, there are several things that you can do to help improve your current connection.
You could request an upgrade through your current broadband provider or look to a non-traditional supplier such as a satellite broadband provider https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/broadband-deals/article/what-is-broadband/what-is-satellite-broadband or you could look to a 4G or a wireless provider such as Airband who have a contract with Connecting Devon and Somerset across North Devon. Last year Airband identified over 3,000 properties across North Devon that they had already upgraded that could access a wireless system that had not yet done so. You can check on your availability here https://www.connectingdevonandsomerset.co.uk/
You may have a reasonable service but still have problems. If there is significant loss of signal within your home, this could be addressed through the purchase of Wi-Fi extenders/boosters. It may also help to upgrade your router from an ADSL to be either ADSL2 or ADSL2+ compatible. There is a lot of advice here from Ofcom that may be of some use:
Long term I want all of North Devon to have FTTP and one of the ways that we can start achieving this is through Community Fibre Partnerships (CFPs).
I am delighted that the Kings Nympton CFP is moving forward and I want to encourage other parishes and communities to do the same. I will soon be producing a ‘How to’ guide for Parish Clerks across North Devon with the help of Openreach and with the guidance of those involved with the Kings Nympton project.
We should not underestimate the problems that we have in upgrading everyone. Even if we did have all the money needed to make these upgrades there are not enough engineers to enable this to happen any time soon. Openreach have been one of the biggest Engineering Apprenticeship providers in the UK over the last few years and have made significant investments in skills right here in North Devon. They have been preparing, and while it may seem like we have been waiting for a long time for promised Government investments to be realised, we are now, hopefully, ready to take action.
Support for Local Newspapers
I know that Ministers share your desire to help independent publications through this period of hardship and they are in regular dialogue with publishers to ensure that the Government response to the challenges they are facing is as effective as possible.
A variety of support has been made available to local newspapers. Importantly, this includes the designating of journalists and ancillary staff as 'key workers', meaning they have been able to keep working and have access to childcare and education for their families.
A major coronavirus public information campaign has been launched, through which Ministers have sought to maximise advertising opportunities for news outlets. Worth up to £35 million in advertising revenue, this campaign brings together over 600 national, regional and local titles across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to reach 49 million people a month. As with any media planning approach, titles have been selected on their ability to engage with audiences and to ensure value for money, reach and targeting efficacy. It is my understanding that the vast majority of titles involved are local papers and additional titles have been selected in order to further reach priority audiences including BAME and older men.
The Chancellor also brought forward the zero rating of VAT on all e-publications to the 1st May - seven months ahead of schedule. The Government expects the tax relief to be passed on to consumers in the form of reduced prices, and publishers should benefit from increased sales. Independent publishers may also benefit from several measures included in an unprecedented business support package, such as the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, Job Retention Scheme, Bounce Back Loans, VAT deferrals, and coverage of statutory sick pay costs.
The internet has become an integral part of our lives. Whilst being online can be a hugely positive experience for children, we have to be alive to the dangers. I believe it is vital that we do all we can to protect our children from the negative impacts the online world can have, so that we make the UK the safest place in the world to be online.
I know the Government fully recognises the importance of tackling online harms, including harmful content to children on the Internet. That is why the Online Harms White Paper, jointly published by the Home Office and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport in April 2019, sets out plans for world-leading legislation in this area.
As championed by the NSPCC, the Bill will establish a new duty of care on companies towards their users, which will be overseen by an independent regulator. This will make companies take more responsibility for the safety of their users and tackle harm caused by content or activity on their services. The regulator will have a suite of powers to take effective enforcement action against companies that have breached their statutory duty of care. The regulator will take a risk-based approach, prioritising action to tackle activity or content where there is the greatest evidence or threat of harm, or where children or other vulnerable users are at risk.
I also welcome that, as set out in the Online Harms White Paper, the Government will be developing an online media literacy strategy. This strategy will lead to a coordinated and strategic approach to online media literacy education and awareness for children, young people and adults. Online media and digital literacy can equip users with the skills they need to spot dangers online, critically appraise information and take steps to keep themselves and others safe online.