Govt 'underestimates' slow broadband issues in rural areas header image

Published: 22nd Jun 2016

Rural leaders have argued that the government is underestimating the problems being faced in rural areas as a result of slow broadband speeds. 

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) has claimed that the government does not appreciate the scale of the issue, with its comments following farm minister David Heath's description of speeds in his Somerset constituency as slower than a "man with a stick". 

Harry Cotterell, president of the CLA, said: "David Heath's description of slow broadband speeds in rural areas is far too generous. We believe his 'man with a stick' must also be confused and lost."

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is not responsible for rolling out faster broadband to these areas, as digital infrastructure falls under the remit of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Mr Cotterell stated that the CLA is "delighted" that DEFRA is taking the issue seriously, but insisted that there appears to problems conveying this message to other areas of the government. 

"We have lobbied on this issue for 11 years and it is vital the industry and government departments work together if they are to prevent the rural-urban digital divide from widening further," he added.

The CLA has called for a national campaign to be launched, highlighting the importance of ensuring the countryside remains connected with the rest of the country.

Mr Cotterell suggested that businesses in rural areas will be unable to compete nationally or internationally if they are forced to rely on their current sluggish broadband speeds and insisted that fast internet access is as important to these communities as electricity, water and gas.

A viable alternative for those exasperated with poor internet connections is satellite broadband from Avonline. This delivers the same quality of service and high speeds regardless of the customer's location as it uses signals sent from a satellite in space, rather than underground cables and is already being utilised by people in some of the most remote areas of the UK.