HC Deb 11 July 2002 vol 388 cc1086-7W
23. Mrs. Lawrence

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what action she is taking to encourage take-up of broadband. [66394]

Ms Hewitt

The Government believe that broadband services have an important role to play in increasing the competitiveness of the UK economy. Ministers have therefore taken several opportunities to promote the benefits of broadband, including by supporting the Demand: Broadband campaign run by the Communications Workers Union.

The UK Online Annual Report 2001 sets out the Government's broadband strategy. "To stimulate demand for current broadband content and applications the Government will:

"—work with the broadband supply industry to facilitate an industry-wide collaborative campaign to promote the benefits of broadband and give impartial advice on the different technological options available.

"—provide more encouragement to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to adopt e-commerce solutions. The DTI are now expanding the £66 million UK online for business programme to:

"—provide more effective advice to businesses on the introduction and setting up of e-business solutions, with particular emphasis on the benefits of broadband; and

"—introduce a web-based guide to broadband availability for SMEs and a network of demonstrators of practical applications".

We have also established a £30 million fund to help the Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) and devolved administrations develop innovative schemes to extend broadband networks. Using this fund, some of the RDAs and devolved administrations are carrying forward work which demonstrates the benefits of broadband.

Since the beginning of 2002, ADSL prices have fallen by 22 per cent. Take-up is now over 600,000 and rising by 20,000 new subscribers per week. Around 66 per cent. of the population are able to access affordable broadband technologies, and increased take-up strengthens the case for further roll-out.