Upland Areas set to see improved broadband and mobile communications
Mobile phone coverage in many of the Northumberland, North Yorkshire, Pennine, Welsh Border, Lake District or Dartmoor/Exmoor upland areas beloved by many hill walkers has always been a little patchy to say the least.
This lack of mobile communications has far reaching effects on local communities and visitors alike. In fact The Office of Communications aka Ofcom has recently completed research looking at the impact of mobile not-spots in upland areas; the effects range from the everyday hassle of a missed 'phone call to include a loss of social connection or business efficiency or in extremis a loss of ability to deal with a real emergency.
However this may soon change as part of a package of measures announced in March by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural affairs (DEFRA).
These measures have been identified as part of the Uplands Policy Review which sets out how the Government will support hill farmers, their communities and their local economies.
Alongside measures to enable hill farmers to benefit from environmental stewardship subsidies and a reduction in 'red-tape', announced by Defra Secretary of Sate, Caroline Spelman, is a new Rural Community Broadband Fund which is expected to be worth up to �20million.
Alongside this, these areas will potentially benefit from a roll-out of fibre-based solutions which should help improve the availability of mobile networks in these harder-to-reach areas and make it more feasible to provide wireless broadband services.
In combination then, these measures should bring improved internet/phone access to upland communities and be of benefit to the many visitors that are attracted to these areas - many of which are in our National Parks or include Areas of Outstanding Beauty or Sites of Special Scientific interest.
Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, Jeremy Hunt, said speaking about the Rural Community Broadband Fund:
"This new fund will enable some of the most remote communities in England to bring broadband to their homes and businesses.
Remote and rural areas have the most to gain from access to broadband but these are the communities currently missing out.
The whole of the UK should be able to share in the benefits of broadband and we are determined to make this happen by the end of the Parliament."
“It's not just about having mobile phone coverage for a chat on your mobile phone though. It's also about rural communities having the access to internet which opens up the communication line and offers many benefits and opportunites, socially and commercially, to those in isolated areas.”
Sarah Seed, Nuneaton
“To own a mobile phone and then leave it at home when you go walking into wilderness areas seems to me to be taking unnecessary risks. Why not keep it, turned off, in a dry plastic bag in your rucksac. Then if you need to call the emergency services for whatever reason - you can. Surely better to have and not need - than to need and not have?”
Paul Morris, Cambridge
“I agree with every thing Skilly says. Why ruin these beautifull Places with mobile phone masts. I am old enough to have walked in these places with out any form of comunication with the world beyond. Is this not what we want? peace and solitude.”
Audrey Lewis, Bury, Lancs
“What a pity- I love Northumberland mostly because the peace of the hills is uninterrupted by people holding pointless and loud converstions on mobile phones. Coverage is not a problem in the towns, I find so why is this necessary? Has everyone forgotten what normal life was like before mobile phones existed ? We managed not to need to know what our friends & relatives were doing every moment of the day and the number of people who die as a result of not having a mobile connection must be miniscule. So we must now pepper some of the loveliest countryside with mobile phone masts just so someone can say "I'm on the train/bus/loo.." Not an improvement in my book. And yes I do have a mobile. I just leave it behind when I 'm in the hills.”
The views expressed by contributors to this discussion are not necessarily those held by go4awalk.com.