The digital divide needs to be addressed as soon as possible to stop businesses in rural areas being left behind, according to a prominent business group in the West Midlands.
David Collier, chairman of Business Voice West Midland's Rural Economy Group, a consortium of more than 20 industry bodies in the area, has asked Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards to meet with him to discuss the issue.
Collier argued that European legislation now empowers Ofcom to put pressure on telecoms firms to provide broadband in hard to reach areas.
"It seems to us that Ofcom now has the authority to ensure that telecoms providers take onboard their public service obligations and require that broadband coverage is provided in outlying rural areas across the West Midlands region," he said.
"The longer the digital divide continues between businesses that have broadband connections and those that don't, the worse it will be for rural communities where local job opportunities will be severely harmed."
However, a spokesperson for Ofcom told V3.co.uk that it "does not have the power to mandate internet service providers to deliver services in geographical areas", and would need the government to give it this power.
"In order for Ofcom to implement any changes it would require changing the legal framework through which the government sets the scope of universal services in the UK. It is for the government to implement these changes, not Ofcom," the spokesperson said.
Ofcom also argued that it has already introduced initiatives designed to encourage companies to roll out broadband in hard to reach areas.
"Last year Ofcom set the regulatory basis for the widespread deployment of superfast broadband, and earlier this year we set out proposals to open up access to BT's ducts and telephone poles, to further assist the industry in rolling out these new services," the spokesperson said.
"Both these initiatives are designed to ensure that there are no regulatory obstacles to companies investing in broadband technology.
"It will then be for the government to consider the options to ensure that these technologies become available in areas where commercial companies may not choose to invest."
The Labour and Conservative parties have outlined plans to implement a broadband economy in the UK through the rollout of superfast broadband networks.
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