One-quarter of rural areas without ‘decent’ broadband

About one-quarter of properties in rural areas are still unable to get a decent broadband connection, a report by telecoms regulator Ofcom has revealed.

More than 900,000 homes in the UK countryside remain unable to sign up for broadband speeds over 10Mbps, the speed required to meet typical digital needs.

This is often because they are situated a long way from the telephone exchange or local street cabinet. Hundreds of farms located in remote or isolated areas are among the worst served.

See also: Poor broadband ‘holding back’ rural businesses in Wales

Although this figure is down from about 2.4m properties, or 8%, last year, there is much more work to do to improve rural connectivity, Ofcom’s Connected Nations 2016 (PDF) report says.

In particular, improving mobile and broadband coverage as well as the quality of service provided by telecoms companies are priorities.

Poor mobile phone coverage means it is possible to make and receive phone calls across only 52% of UK landmass and the discrimination felt by rural areas is acute, the study found.

Rollout of 4G services mean coverage is available in 89% of locations within urban areas, more than double the coverage figures for rural areas (37%).

The regulator warned that unless radical new plans are developed, people living and working across the UK’s countryside will continue to struggle to receive a good service.

‘Unacceptable’ service

Steve Unger, Ofcom’s chief technology officer, said: “Mobile and broadband coverage continued to grow this year, but too many people and businesses are still struggling for a good service. We think that is unacceptable.

“So we are challenging mobile operators to go beyond built-up areas and provide coverage across the UK’s countryside and transport networks.”

Responding to the report, the Country, Land and Business Association said it would be seeking urgent meetings to see what could be done to force the telecoms industry to “deliver more than just promises” and “roll out the infrastructure required to connect the countryside”.

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