In December 2016 a decision was made by the Prosperous Communities Committee for a survey to be developed that would test out the extent of the issue of broadband provision throughout West Lindsey. West Lindsey were not part of the Onlincolnshire Phase 2 and the Authority needed to consider how to support residents in delivering the last 10-15% of coverage across West Lindsey.
The Committee therefore gave consideration to a report which sought to provide Members with an up-to-date position with regard to Broadband Provision across the District, including the results of the survey. The report also set out high level options for future consideration. It was noted that there was currently no budget allocation for supporting broadband provision and therefore dependent on the action taken, budget implications would need to be a consideration.
It was noted that responses received up until 10 May had been taken into consideration when writing the report. Responses continued to be received and these would be taken into consideration in due course.
The survey results, as detailed in Section 2 of the report together with the speed test results detailed in Section 3 of the report were summarised to the Committee.
Debate ensued, with all Members welcoming the report. It was acknowledged that broadband provision was an issue across the District but that this was patchy with many issues being very localised and relating to speed and connectivity. The good response rate was welcomed, highlighting the importance of the issue to the community and those affected. However some Members, despite welcoming the options for further investigation, were of the view that the Authority had worked hard to improve the situation but it was maybe time to acknowledge that Lincolnshire County Council were the lead authority for this matter, in light of the additional resources, both financial and staffing, which would need to be found.
Other Members expressed concern at the apathy. The Council’s vision was to have a place where people wanted to live and work and were investing significant monies into achieving this. There was a view that without appropriate broadband provision those efforts would be wasted. People wanted broadband, businesses needed broadband and without it the area would not thrive, nor be a place where people wished to invest or stay. Broadband infrastructure was considered as important as any other utility. The budget position was acknowledged, however improving the situation did not necessarily require huge amounts of money. Some Members were of the view that the Council still had a role to play and a duty to lobby, apply pressure to those responsible, hold to account agencies and to continue to raise issues and concerns. Members considered such actions would require few additional resources and would welcome any such actions the Council had or could take in respect of this, including within the future report.
The need for lobbying, applying pressure, and such like was acknowledged and accepted by all. There was also a view that Option 1 should also be pursued in the first instance. Officers indicated that negotiations continued and Lincolnshire County Council were now supporting the District Council position, it was hoped that Officers would be able to report further progress in this area within the next report. Officers further expanded on the types of support Option 3 could maybe allow the District Council to offer for a time limited period, similar to the support offered to Neighbourhood Planning. It was also noted that Option 2 was very much dependent on the outcome of Option 1. The need for lobbying was acknowledged and if the Government was to reach its target coverage they would need to acknowledge the issues faced in rural communities. Organisations such as SPARSE could be used to raise the profile of the issues.
It was therefore agreed that further information regarding a blended approach encompassing Options 1 and 3, together with information around lobbying and the agencies which could be approached would be submitted for further consideration at the next meeting of the Committee.
RESOLVED that, having considered the next steps, Officer be requested to submit a further report for consideration at the Committee’s meeting in July 2017 incorporating further information regarding a blended approach encompassing Options 1 and 3, together with information around lobbying and the agencies which could be approached.