BACKING business in Somerset with better infrastructure is a key part of my long-term plan for our area.

It's great we are having success in roads - I have long campaigned to get the A358 dualled between Ilminster and Taunton, as well as the A303 - and fingers crossed this now looks like it's happening.

In the modern world people increasingly want and are able to do business remotely as well though, and need a broadband tool to do it that just works.

I want all of Somerset to be part of that, and was saddened to hear a friend who has started several successful creative businesses was frustrated with her part of rural Somerset's inability to compete with the efficiency of the urban broadband network her competitors can access.

Because of the difficult decisions we have taken nationally and locally to deal with the deficit and debt, we are able to invest substantial money nationally and locally in getting broadband delivered to 95 per cent of homes and businesses by 2017. And that's great. Many more families and businesses each week are able to enjoy the full benefits of the internet, communicate faster and access new opportunities and markets across the world.

I want to go further than that though and get everyone connected, ASAP, as I know our County administration does.

In my view, the new Connecting Devon & Somerset money being pooled by government at the moment should be used to employ cost effective solutions to get everyone onto broadband or give them the tools to do it themselves. That almost certainly doesn't mean expensive fibre and cabling to every home. There are other ways and technologies to do it effectively at less cost.

That's what needs to be looked at for all of Somerset. It is partly what is being assessed for your area, if you like me are in one of the blue patches termed "under assessment" on the interactive map that is now at , but people in other colours on that map should be able to assess and have options for themselves too.

I don't want the new CDS money to go into subsidising BT for the fibre roll-out that they have already committed to. It's completely unacceptable that some big parts of our towns, and new developments, aren't properly connected yet, and the contractor needs to step up or risk having their customers find other ways.

It's a real lack of foresight from the Council not to have insisted that some big new developments put proper links in as a condition of their planning permission. That's something I would change.

I will also do everything I can to make sure communities have the knowledge and wherewithal to look at alternatives, some of which are outlined on this useful web site:

And I am writing to Connecting Devon & Somerset to make sure we squeeze every last benefit out of the new funding that we are putting together, to enable as many people as soon as possible to have that fast connection they need and deserve, which will make our area a dynamic place to locate a business.

This is all part of our long-term economic plan which we need to continue with, to help businesses expand, create more jobs, and secure a better and brighter future for our area.

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