Boris Johnson’s promise to provide 85% of homes and businesses in Oldham with high-speed broadband by 2025 is set to be broken, local Liberal Democrats can reveal, with just 6.6% of homes in the more rural areas constituency getting high speed connections.
Analysis of House of Commons Library data by the party has found that just 3.1% of premises in Oldham East and Saddleworth had gigabit broadband availability in 2021, and just 8.7% in Oldham West and Royton.
At this rate of progress, just 37.2% of homes in Oldham West and Royton will hit the target, a poor enough rate. However, this just serves to highlight the far worse figures in Oldham East and Saddleworth – only 6.6% are on track to get high speed access.
Saddleworth Liberal Democrat Councillor Sam Al-Hamdani said: “Saddleworth is chronically underserved for public transport. But if we cannot deliver high-speed internet, working from home becomes far less of an option.
“In the meantime, the GMCA Clean Air Zone is leaving business owners facing substantial costs for using vehicles. It’s a perfect storm – you can’t work from home, you can’t get public transport, and you get charged for driving.”
Households and business owners in Oldham are bracing themselves for the cost of broadband to skyrocket in April. Several broadband providers have announced prices will go up by 9.3%, in line with CPI inflation of 5.4% in December – the biggest rise in almost 30 years.
With this hike on the way, Oldham Liberal Democrats are calling on the Government to legally require all broadband providers to automatically offer cheaper deals through ‘social tariffs’ for struggling families. This move could save nearly 40,000 people in Oldham around £270 a year on their broadband bill.
Councillor Al-Hamdani continued: “This pandemic has shown how vital access to broadband is for learning, for work and for staying connected. But local families and businesses are being left in the digital slow lane and face crippling hikes to their broadband bills, on top of tax raids and soaring energy prices.
“These piecemeal policies are costing residents a fortune, hitting businesses in the pocket, and failing to actually deliver what they should be doing. This Government is lurching from crisis to crisis, and it has now idea how to deliver considered programmes that would actually improve this country, and the lives of every person in Oldham and Saddleworth.”