UK rural broadband ‘worse than ex-Soviet bloc’

Rural parts of the UK struggle with worse broadband coverage than many nations in the ex-Soviet bloc, according to a study. 

The study, by the European Commission (EC), found high-speed broadband coverage in Slovenia, Lithuania and Cyprus outperforms services available in the British countryside.

Europe’s Digital Progress Report (EDPR) found the UK’s high-speed rural broadband coverage rate is 45.9%.

See also: Rural broadband service on farms ‘slower than on Everest’

This leaves the UK lagging behind nations in eastern Europe, such as Slovenia and Lithuania, which recorded broadband coverage rates of 58.4% and 58.9% respectively.

Grant Shapps, chairman of the British Infrastructure Group of MPs, said the EC’s figures confirmed the broadband service available in rural areas “just isn’t up to it”.

The figures published in The Telegraph also showed that rural communities in the UK also have some of the worst access to high-speed mobile internet connections.

Only 9.4% of rural dwellers have access to long-term evolution (LTE) coverage, the highest standard of mobile internet, compared to the EU average of 27%. This puts UK rural LTE mobile coverage behind Hungary (15%) and Romania (17%). 

Prime minister David Cameron has promised to deliver superfast broadband coverage – 10Mbps or faster – to 95% of the country by 2020.

However, the “final 5%”, which comprises of many farms and rural households, will only be granted access to fast broadband “by request”.

A government consultation blamed this decision on the “high costs of providing broadband access to premises in remote areas”.

Earlier this month, a report by the NFU said only 4% of farmers have access to superfast broadband.

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