Published: 7th Jan 2015
Rural economies can benefit significantly from faster broadband connections, which could help them grow faster than their urban counterparts, according to a new report from government analysts.
A document released from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) claims that those working in rural communities are 83 per cent as productive as those in urban areas.
It believes that increased connectivity, spread of innovation and growth in knowledge-based industries, such as agriculture, could help the countryside to catch up with, and possibly overtake, towns in the next ten years.
The department has estimated that the economic output of rural areas could hit £35 billion by 2025, due to faster broadband and improved transport links.
Over the next decade, the government predicts that an additional 300,000 jobs could be created in rural communities - marking an increase of six per cent - as more people flee big cities to build a life in the picturesque countryside.
According to statistics from Defra, those living in rural communities are more likely to manage their own businesses compared to their urban counterparts, with the English countryside home to 25 per cent of all firms, despite only 18 per cent of the population living there.
Despite many reports of poor broadband service in rural areas of the UK, the government has defended its track record, insisting that by 2017 public investment of £1.7 billion will see 95 per cent of UK premises gain access to super-fast speeds.
The government claims that work is currently underway to identify suitable options to connect the remaining five per cent living in hard-to-reach areas - something that satellite broadband could easily resolve.
Liz Truss, Defra secretary, said the report highlights that there are "exciting times" ahead for the countryside, but shadow farm minister Huw Irranca-Davies noted that the outlined plans are yet to be delivered.
Dr Charles Trottman, head of the Country Land and Business Association, said he believes Defra is "touting the improved broadband card" when the reality of better connectivity has not yet been achieved.
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