THE CLA has launched a rural broadband policy paper to mark its 10 years of lobbying on the issue.

The association celebrated the anniversary of its broadband campaign by publishing Broadband Fit for Rural Growth, which sets out its vision for ural broadband and calls for a strategic alliance with other interest groups to further influence the rural broadband debate.

CLA president Harry Cotterell said: “Between 15 and 20 per cent of those who live in rural areas are still unable to receive anywhere near the Government’s benchmark of two megabites per second.

“Although there have been some notable successes since the CLA started campaigning, there is still a huge amount to be done to ensure coverage is universal. We have set out our first rural broadband policy because we believe the Government must do more to help the countryside. By seeking to form an alliance with other rural groups to agree common objectives, we can help to deliver a comprehensive broadband strategy.”

CLA Midlands director Caroline Bedell said: “It is unlikely that the Government’s objective to have the best superfast broadband network in Europe by 2015 will be realised, so we are calling on the Government to agree to a legally binding ‘universal service obligation’ rather than just a ‘commitment’, which is effectively a get-out clause.

“Broadband is no longer a luxury.

“Access is the key issue in rural areas rather than seeking even higher speeds, so we must look at ways that this can be delivered in the short term, such as allowing rural communities to piggy-back onto public sector broadband and using other technologies such as wi-fi and satellite to plug the gaps.

“As long as there are children who cannot do their homework and businesses that cannot compete on an equal footing because of lack of broadband, then we shall continue our campaign.

“If we can help co-ordinate and focus the frustration felt by other interest groups, then we will do so. It can only help to get everyone on an equal footing.”