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Campaigners tell MEP about Shropshire broadband woe

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Anger over broadband in rural areas came under the spotlight as a Euro MP met with Shropshire and Welsh campaigners.

West Midlands MEP Phil Bennion visited Shropshire on a fact-finding mission about how broadband delivery in the region's rural areas is meeting European guidelines.

He said: "There is a growing disconnect between what I am hearing from Government and the European Commission about high speed broadband and the anger and frustration affecting residents and local community providers on the ground, especially in Shropshire."

He met with councillors and Patrick Cosgrove of the South West Shropshire and Marches Better Broadband Campaign.

Mr Bennion said: "The system for rolling out better broadband is too complex and plainly is not delivering what people need, especially in remote rural areas like south-west Shropshire. I can understand Mr Cosgrove and his campaign group's frustration.

"European Union funding has been set aside to fill the gaps using a variety of broadband providers and technologies, working through DEFRA, but this can only happen properly once it is clear where the gaps will be.

"After winning all 44 contracts for Broadband Delivery UK, BT does have an obligation to ensure that definitive maps for their superfast broadband roll-out are available. They must also produce a clear timetable and what level of service businesses and households can expect.

"Some counties have this information already, Shropshire does not.

"I will press BT and Shropshire Council to ensure this happens as soon as practicable.

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"It is ridiculous that when so much public money is paying for it, people are resorting to Freedom of Information requests to get this information.

"We need a better co-ordinated approach. The priority should be a decent service for all, not superfast for 90 per cent and no guarantees for the 10 per cent in rural areas who need it most."

Mr Cosgrove, a retired civil servant from Bucknell, said: "We told him our reservations with the current programme and he seemed very pleased with the information we had given to him. "We're not convinced it's in line with European State Aid requirements.

"We want parity across the board so that everyone has the same.

"It's a good argument and I think we've helped him," he added. "It's not just for Shropshire, it's for the whole country."

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