THERE IS a strong element of self-interest to today’s report by online giant Amazon which says Yorkshire’s economy could grow by at least £600m if there was enhanced digital connectivity in rural areas.
After all, better coverage presumably means more consumers utilising its services over local shops and, therefore, boosting the tech giant’s profitability still further at a time when it has gone out of its way to minimise its UK tax liabilities.
If more global enterprises paid a fairer amount of tax – Amazon has increased its profits here while reducing its corporation tax contributions at the same time – the Government could invest more money in the nation’s infrastructure.
And while Environment Secretary Michael Gove said last month that access to broadband was just as important, if not more so, than HS2, Matt Hancock, the Cabinet minister now in full charge of the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, has shown insufficient urgency since being given responsibility for this issue in July 2016 when Theresa May came to power. Policy actions matter more than his digital profile – there are many parts of Yorkshire where he would struggle to update his ubiquitous personalised app that he uses to chart his career.
As demonstrated by the furore over plans to impose a council tax surcharge on second homes in Yorkshire Dales that have now been dropped, high-speed internet access is a prerequisite if firms are to develop, and expand, in rural areas and, therefore, help more local services to survive. Perhaps Amazon will now explain how such a rollout should be funded as a matter of urgency.