Published: 22nd Jun 2016
A new study from the RCUK Digital Economy Research Hub and a group at Oxford University has revealed that many people in rural areas of the UK are still struggling to access the internet, even as those in cities are able to upgrade to ever faster connections.
It was discovered that 95 per cent of city residents were able to get broadband speeds of 6.3 Mbps or greater, which is regarded as a relatively basic level. However, 53 per cent of people who live in the countryside are not able to get this kind of speed. This means that there are 1.3 million people in the most rural areas who are suffering from internet connectivity issues. This figure rises further if those in so-called “shallow”, or less isolated, rural communities are included.
The lead author of the report, Professor John Farrington, said: "This broadband speed gap between urban and especially deep rural areas is widening: it will begin to narrow as superfast reaches more rural areas, but better-connected, mostly urban, areas will also increase speeds at a high rate.
"This means faster areas will probably continue to get faster and faster, with slow speed areas left lagging behind."
He added: “These issues can potentially create a new tipping point for poorly connected rural areas.”
“Effects could include losing businesses; adding to farming costs; making out-migration more likely for young people and in-migration less likely for retirees or the economically active.”
In addition to this, the president of the Country Landowners Association Henry Rollins has warned that broadband access has the potential to create a “postcode lottery” for rural businesses.
However, the government has recently announced that its Broadband Delivery Programme, which aims to provide internet speeds of 24 Mbps for properties not currently covered by commercial networks, has already reached three million homes, and is on track to connect 95 per cent of rural properties by 2017.
However, a strategy to cater for the remaining five per cent of rural areas has not yet been agreed.
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