‘Digital deserts’ in North Yorkshire

THE full scale of slow broadband and poor mobile coverage holding back parts of Yorkshire has been exposed as Ministers face calls to move faster to tackle a digital divide.

Barely one in seven people in North Yorkshire currently has access to superfast broadband according to maps published by telecoms watchdog Ofcom, revealing “digital deserts”.

In some parts of the region one in five homes and businesses do not even have access to a “decent” basic speed connection, which the Government has promised for every home by 2015.

Towns and cities generally fare better, but rural areas are also blighted by mobile “not spots”, with no reliable signal across one third of North Yorkshire.

Stuart Burgess, chairman of the Commission for Rural Communities, said: “If I had one wish of what the Growth Review was about for rural communities it would be around providing the infrastructure to roll out broadband and mobile coverage.

“Rural broadband and good mobile phone coverage go together, you can’t separate them as issues. After affordable housing it’s the number one issue in rural communities throughout the whole of England - in some areas it’s the number one issue.”

He added: “If you get good broadband access and mobile phone coverage it’s going to stimulate and help the rural economy, help small rural businesses to grow and develop.”

The Ofcom maps reveal that North Yorkshire has the worst coverage of superfast broadband, which is vital to download films and music or to send large amounts of data, with just 15 per cent of homes and businesses having access.

Coverage is 41 per cent in North Lincolnshire, 54 per cent in Wakefield and 55 per cent in Rotherham and Doncaster.

The Government wants every home to have access to at least basic speed broadband by 2015, with 90 per cent of people in each local authority having access to superfast broadband in the best network in Europe by 2015.

Councils have been given £530m to deliver superfast broadband to homes and businesses that would otherwise miss out because it is not commercially viable for private companies, although local authorities have to find the rest of the money themselves.

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, said: “We have quadrupled the amount of money available for superfast broadband.