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Poor rural broadband widening 'digital gap'

Slow broadband in rural areas is said to be dividing the country in two.
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The slow roll out of broadband is putting rural businesses at a disadvantage, say researchers
The slow roll out of broadband is putting rural businesses at a disadvantage, say researchers

Slow broadband in rural areas is widening the ‘digital gap’, according to a new study by the University of Aberdeen and University of Oxford.


Results of the study show more than one million people in Britain are denied access to or face challenges engaging in normal online activities, widening the social and economic gap between those who are connected and those who are ‘digitally excluded’.


The study, entitled Two-Speed Britain: Rural Internet Use, was conducted by dot.rural, Research Council UK’s digital economy hub at the University of Aberdeen, and the Oxford Internet Institute.


Results found 53 per cent of people in ‘deep rural areas’ were unable to achieve the average broadband speed of 6.3Mbits per second. This is in comparison to just 5 per cent in urban areas.


As well as being a general inconvenience, slow rural internet speed was putting rural businesses at a disadvantage as they were unable to take advantage of the commercial efficiencies afforded by the internet.


Charles Trotman, senior business and economics adviser at the CLA, said: “Access to fast, reliable broadband can be the difference between success and failure for rural businesses.


“It is unacceptable for those in rural areas to lose their competitive edge through poor coverage and lack of communications infrastructure.”


Despite Government investing millions of pounds into installation of superfast broadband, the study shows groups of young people in rural areas were moving to built-up, urban locations in order to access more technological jobs and lives. Additionally, as superfast broadband reaches more rural areas, the areas which already have access to higher speeds will continue to improve, leaving slower speed areas struggling to catch up.


Mr Trotman said: “Another long lasting impact of poor connectivity is the social exclusion of those living and working in the countryside. As Government discusses plans for starter homes in rural areas to persuade young people to remain in the countryside, it must also realise investment in connectivity infrastructure is needed as an incentive for them to stay.”

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