Boosting the broadband speeds of businesses in areas covered by the roll-out of super-fast broadband has seen a £9 billion increase in turnover, with pressure now on the Government to deliver for rural communities.
Emily Hickman reports...
A report by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport found for every £1 invested by the Government and local authorities between 2012 and 2016, the programme delivered £12.28 to businesses.
CLA president Tim Breitmeyer said while the research findings were encouraging, the Government needed to ‘intensify’ its efforts to ‘bring broadband in rural areas on a par with more urban areas’.
“This research vindicates the CLA’s position on the value that superfast broadband can bring to our rural economy.
“Despite the progress made on the roll-out of superfast broadband, the research also highlights the disparity between broadband in urban areas in comparison to rural areas.”
The rollout has been described by Minister for Digital, Margot James as ‘the most challenging infrastructure project in a generation, but one of our greatest successes’.
Although the Government claims 95.39 per cent of homes and businesses in the UK have access to broadband speeds of 24Mbps, the average broadband speed is only 18.57Mbps. This has seen the UK fall four places in the table for global broadband speeds, into 35th place, 13 places behind one of the world’s least developed countries, Madagascar.
While slow broadband was more common in rural areas, farmers in urban areas were also suffering.
Dairy farmer Jimmy Pritt, Countesthorpe, Leicestershire, said he was unable to secure either a workable dial-up connection or broadband. Ironically, he had a better broadband connection when he lived in West Cumbria.
4G was also a problem on his farm – an issue Mr Breitmeyer warned was echoed across the UK.
“We want mobile phone operators held to account to deliver universal rural 4G digital infrastructure which is vital in making rural communities sustainable,” he added.
Connectivity was also an issue for farmer JJ Macleod, who farms in Herefordshire. He believes phone signal should be more of a priority for the Government.
“Rural broadband is not great, but rural signal is even worse,” he told Farmers Guardian.
“Phone signal could be the difference between life and death, not just on farms but throughout the rural community.”
Key findings from the Evaluation of the Economic Impact and Public Value of the Superfast Broadband Programme report
Top 5 countries for mean download speed