Before last month's election, I made clear one of my main aims for this Parliament was to push for improved broadband and mobile connectivity for the Ludlow Constituency. There is clear evidence that good and reliable connectivity helps stimulate economic growth and create jobs - and job creation in digital industries is nearly three times as fast as in the rest of the economy.
So I am very encouraged that progress is now made on a number of fronts. Connecting Shropshire, responsible for the Government's public rollout of broadband in the county, this week announced the next phase of its procurement programme. Working in partnership with wireless broadband provider Airband, Connecting Shropshire will be delivering superfast broadband to over 14,000 homes and businesses in the Shropshire Council area over the next three years.
Airband (which coincidentally has supplied my home for three years) have been providing wireless services to rural areas since 2002, and have just completed a rollout project on Dartmoor and Exmoor. It is experienced in delivering broadband to sparsely populated highly rural areas with challenging topography, where sensitive landscapes must be respected.
This investment of £11.2m will specifically target those hardest to reach areas that have not yet been covered by the Connecting Shropshire programme. The work will begin immediately, and by the time it is complete, 98% of premises in the Shropshire Council area will have access to superfast broadband.
This is really welcome news, and puts Shropshire on course to meet the Government's commitment to a Universal Service Obligation for broadband by 2020 - providing a minimum connection of 10mbps to all premises by the end of the Parliament.
As well as this local investment, the Government is taking further steps to expand investment in full fibre broadband infrastructure and future 5G mobile communications to homes and businesses. On Monday the Telecommunications Infrastructure (Relief from Non-Domestic Rates) Bill was introduced in the House of Commons, which will provide relief from business rates for telecoms companies for the installation of new optical fibre - a £60m package of support.
I also welcome Ofcom's announcement on Tuesday of a new spectrum auction which will release airwaves to meet the growing demand for mobile broadband and for future 5G services. In practical terms, this will mean faster downloads and internet browsing for mobile users.
This focus on improving connectivity will encourage digital entrepreneurship and allow more people in the Ludlow Constituency to start or grow a business, as well as expanding mobile and broadband services for educational and personal use. I will continue to press for progress over this Parliament and push for continuing improvements in connectivity across South Shropshire