First Rural Connectivity Champion announced to help drive growth

Government announces apppointment of Simon Fell MP as UK’s first Rural Connectivity Champion

  • Simon Fell MP announced as new Rural Connectivity Champion, supporting rural communities and businesses in benefiting from greater digital connectivity
  • announcement comes as the government pledges £7 million to testing out new ways to bring together satellite, wireless and fixed line internet connectivity for rural communities

Following the launch of the government’s Rural Statement today, the government has also announced the appointment of Simon Fell MP as the UK’s first Rural Connectivity Champion.

Taking up the role which was announced as part of the Wireless Infrastructure Strategy earlier this year, Mr Fell will support rural businesses to access and adopt the digital connectivity they need to encourage commercial investment in 5G and support economic growth.

The Champion will convene rural businesses and the telecoms industry to support adoption of digital connectivity in sectors such as agriculture and develop, in partnership with rural businesses, a clear understanding of what connectivity is needed to drive innovation and growth up and down the country.

Simon Fell MP, Rural Connectivity Champion said:

"I am honoured to have been asked to take up the role of Rural Connectivity Champion. Poor connectivity is holding back too many rural communities and businesses, as my own farmers and businesses in Barrow and Furness will attest.

"If we hope to unlock growth, and to ensure that our rural communities are sustainable, then the government has got to work hand in glove with local government and the private sector to deliver better connectivity. I look forward to leading that work across government and the country."

As a key proponent for digital connectivity in rural areas, Mr Fell will also support rural communities and businesses in removing local barriers for the deployment of 5G, gigabit broadband and more, while driving local leadership and coordination into the local authorities that make development decisions.

Mr Fell comes to the role with a background in telecoms, and cyber security, representing a largely rural constituency in Cumbria, and is well placed to engage with rural businesses and support them in understanding how adopting new technology can make a real difference to their productivity, and help them continue to innovate.

The new Champion will jointly report to the Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology and Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

The announcement of Simon Fell as Rural Connectivity Champion comes as the Government announces a new £7 million fund to test out new ways to bring together satellite, wireless and fixed line internet connectivity, helping support farmers and tourism businesses to access lightning fast, reliable connectivity in remote areas for the first time.

The results of the new approaches will also help rural businesses in trial areas make the most of new agricultural technologies by improving connectivity on their land, for example using new drone technology to monitor crops and livestock in real-time, support landscape and wildlife conservation efforts, or develop interactive experiences for tourists.

The new fund comes alongside the government’s commitment earlier this year to deliver improved, high-speed broadband via satellite connectivity for up to 35,000 homes in the most remote parts of the UK through an £8 million grant scheme, giving them a broadband connection that will be up to ten times faster than what is currently available to them.

It also builds on the progress made over the last decade to support connectivity in rural areas. Over 75% of UK premises can now access gigabit-capable broadband, up from 6% at the beginning of 2019, and over 730,000 premises have already been upgraded in hard-to-reach rural areas as part of the government’s £5 billion Project Gigabit investment. Today government also confirmed plans to procure all regional contracts in England under Project Gigabit by the end of 2024.

Department for Science, Innovation and Technology
Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs