Broadband in rural areas still inadequate

Nearly 50 per cent of people experience problems with their Internet at least once a day, research has revealed.

The figure paints a worrying picture of the UK’s rural broadband provision. In total, the government has already invested £530 million in to fibre broadband and former Culture Secretary Maria Miller has been reported as wanting the UK’s Internet to be among the best in the world.

According to the research which asked 142 people about their broadband the most common problems include slow Internet and a dropped connection, with 64.7 per cent reporting the former and 17.61 per cent reporting the latter. The survey was issued by Mole Valley Farmers, in conjunction with Europasat, and sent to customers of the organisation which mostly serves farmers and rural dwellers.

A total of 44.37 per cent of respondents had trouble with their Internet at least once a day – and more than half of those (26.76 per cent) stated problems occurred several times a day. Speed also continues to be a problem with 23.94 per cent receiving advertised speeds of 2Mbps or less. The government target is 24Mbps.

“Put simply, those in rural locations must not be left behind. The government’s promise of superfast broadband for everyone needs to be delivered” said Andy Skarzynski, Head of Ecommerce at Mole Valley Farmers. “We hear anecdotally from our customers, many of whom live in rural areas, how poor Internet connections delay day-to-day business and this survey shows how widespread the problem is.

“With Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) confirming all Common Agricultural Policy will be delivered through an entirely new single online application system by 2015, the government needs to make rural locations a priority when it comes to superfast broadband.

The importance of the Internet was also highlighted by the research. Around a fifth (21.13 per cent) of people stated their job would not be possible without a connection, while 31.69 per cent said the Internet was extremely important for their job. A massive 84.51 per cent of respondents go online several times a day.

Despite the survey showing the need for an alternative broadband solution, more than a third (35.21 per cent) of people did not know they could get Internet with download speeds of up to 20Mbps through satellite technology.

“Those who are still heralding fibre as a ‘one size fits all solution’ need to face up to the fact that for the 95 per cent of the UK that it will benefit, there is five per cent that it won’t work for,” said Andrew Walwyn, Managing Director, Europasat. “These people wake up daily to life in the digital dark ages and that is not good enough. There is alternative technology out there that can provide a solution and the Government needs to do more to promote and create access to these.”

Of the 142 people who took the survey, 66.9 per cent live in the South West and 33.10 per cent work in Agriculture, suggesting the problem largely affects rural areas. This is likely to be due to homes being further away from a cabinet, meaning they would not receive the full benefit of fibre optic broadband, which is how the government is upgrading Internet across the UK.

Satellite Internet works in a way similar to satellite television services and can be used anywhere, as long as the user can have a dish installed to their property with a clear view of the southern sky. It is proven to provide a consistent, reliable and fast connection and people who use it for business-related purposes have reported savings of time and money, enabling them in some cases to grow their business.

The survey results follow an announcement that the government will release £250 million extra funding to local authorities for broadband provision. Areas set to benefit include Devon and Somerset, Shropshire, Hereford and Gloucestershire, South Yorkshire, Essex, Hampshire Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire, Kent and Medway, East Riding of Yorkshire and Black Country.

“While this funding is not to be scoffed at and is likely to help boost rural access across the UK, it is important not to forget about the final five per cent of the population,” said Walwyn. “Satellite does have its critics but for areas where connection to a fast and reliable network is still a long way off, it is an ideal solution. Unless the government embrace alternative technologies in their broadband plan, the country’s broadband being among the best in the world will not be possible.”

Posted by on Apr 9 2014. Filed under Articles, Broadband, Markets, Research.

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