Rural areas still suffering ‘digital apartheid’

The digital divide between rural and urban areas is continuing to widen, the Countryside Alliance has warned.

The organisation said there was a “marked digital apartheid” between towns and the countryside, with 40% of UK homes experiencing provision of less than 5mbps, way below the average of 17.8mps.

A report by independent comparison website showed residents in parts of Stanford-le-Hope, Essex, and Erw Fawr in Henryd, Conwy, Wales, have the slowest broadband speed in the UK.

With a broadband speed of 0.60mps, it would take residents in those areas about 15 hours to download an HD film off the internet.

Meanwhile, residents in parts of Unstone, Derbyshire, enjoy some of the fastest broadband speeds at 57.58mps, which would allow them to download the same film in nine minutes.

Read also: MPs slam government broadband plan

Sir Barney White-Spunner, executive chairman of the Countryside Alliance, said: “The government has promised 95% of UK premises will have superfast broadband – more than 24mbps – by 2017.

“However, as these latest figures show, they have a long way to go. Eight per cent of all broadband connections in the UK currently operate at less than 2mbps. And the government target still leaves 5% of homes without superfast broadband.”

The alliance said it was vital that rural communities were not limited by using slow copper cable technology and were given the same access to superfast broadband as urban areas.

Sir Barney added: “Broadband is no longer a luxury, but a necessity and we all need meaningful access to it.”

The alliance said the importance of broadband to rural households and businesses could not be overestimated, with many deeming it an essential service, alongside water, electricity and gas.

From 2015, the government will move to an online-only single farm payment system and farmers whose current broadband services are sub-standard are concerned they will encounter problems.


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