26/10/2012 15:57 BST

Culture Secretary Maria Miller Urged To 'Get A Grip On High-Speed Communications'

New Culture Secretary Maria Miller has been urged by her own party's MEPs to "get a grip" on high-speed communications technology vital for the country's economic growth.

A letter from 20 Tory members of the European Parliament says swift country-wide installation of the latest broadband IT is now an urgent priority as the UK falls behind many of its competitors.

One of the 20, James Elles, Conservative MEP for the South East, said: "I hope this will be seen as a polite but firm request to our own party's minister to take an urgent grip of a potentially damaging issue. We believe the appointment of a new minister can be the opportunity for a complete reappraisal of our approach."

Describing their plea as "an alarm call to Whitehall", Mr Elles went on: "Ofcom has been asleep at the wheel over 4G and access to superfast broadband. Unfortunately nobody in Whitehall has woken them up.

"Statistics show that 85% of current communication is by text and voice. Within five years, 85% will be by mobile and broadband.

"We must think big and act fast, or Britain will be no better than an also-ran in the global race for technological progress and productivity."

The letter says ensuring that superfast connectivity quickly covers the whole of the UK is the best-value way of investing in the power of small and medium-sized businesses to boost the economy.

It calls for a "revolution" in the pace, scale and scope of digital-infrastructure investment to avert the growing risk of the UK being left behind in the global roll-out of broadband.

The letter says: "There has been substantial progress in some geographic areas, but there are still significant parts of the UK when connectivity (both in terms of speed and access) is running behind that of our competitors. We believe that broadband, both fixed and increasingly mobile, is key to delivering economic recovery and growth."

The euro-Tories have also sent the minister a copy of a report they have compiled insisting that the digital economy is now the central economy, and digital infrastructure is key to UK economic recovery.

The report, High-speed Broadband for all of Britain: The Infrastructure Priority for Jobs and Growth, says mobile broadband is the new driving force behind the digital revolution, but fixed connections still have significantly greater speed and bandwidth potential.

It says that no digital strategy will be effective unless both mobile and broadband are developed together.

Small and medium-sized companies, the backbone of any recovery, must have access to broadband wherever they are - at broadband speeds that allow businesses to be competitive globally. Current UK ideas of "high speed" - around 25Mbps- seems minimal when contrasted with many parts of China where 100 Mbps is already available through fixed connections, they say.

Another problem is that many UK SMEs are outside the current "footprint" of the country's broadband infrastructure and risk having little or no access for some time yet a more urgent Government attitude towards "universal coverage".

Mr Elles said: "The expertise behind our report is impeccable. It shows that the UK response so far has been too cumbersome, too slow and too partial."