Government response to concerns on 5G and broadband targets inadequate, say MPs

5 March 2021, 12:34

A 5G phone mast
5G rollout. Picture: PA

DCMS Committee chairman Julian Knight has written to Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden on the issue.

The Government’s response to questions over its rollout of 5G and gigabit-capable broadband has been labelled “inadequate” by MPs.

Julian Knight, chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee, has written to Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden to demand a fuller response to urgent questions he says the Government has yet to answer.

The committee published a report in December which warned that the Government was already risking failing to meet its revised-down target for the introduction of faster broadband and that its 5G network rollout was in danger of repeating the legacy of mobile signal “not-spots”.

The report also set out recommendations including asking ministers to outline how likely it is that the 85% coverage broadband target will be met by 2025 and to detail how the remaining £3.8 billion of a £5 billion budget for delivering the high-speed broadband to hard-to-reach areas has been ringfenced.

MP portraits
Julian Knight has written to Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden to ask for a fuller response to the DCMS Committee’s questions (Chris McAndrew/UK Parliament/PA)

But the committee said the initial Government response, which it received last month and published on Friday, has so far failed to adequately respond to its recommendations and wider points.

Mr Knight said: “We raised urgent questions in our report to Government requesting that it set out detailed plans about how it would deliver on its revised-down target for gigabit-capable broadband and, crucially, how likely it was to be met.

“Ministers have failed to answer that key question, among others, and provided inadequate responses elsewhere.

“Today I have written to Secretary of State Oliver Dowden calling for a full response to our recommendations and to points that have gone unanswered. These are questions that cannot be avoided.”

In his letter, Mr Knight called on the Government to respond by April 1 with more details on issues including the “extensive engagement” it had with the industry over the past year referred to by ministers, as well as a full assessment of how likely it is that its revised target will be met.

By Press Association