Broadband connection speeds in rural England have been found to be up to three times slower than in nearby urban centres.
A study undertaken by the County Councils Network (CCN), found that 72% of the counties in England achieved worse than average download speeds and that 27% had typical speeds below 30Mbps which is the industry watchdog Ofcom’s definition of ‘superfast’. Many counties find that they have significantly worse connections speeds than more urban areas in a close vicinity. For example, North Yorkshire has a typical connection speed of 30.2Mbps whereas the city of York’s average download speed dwarfs the surrounding areas at 102Mbps. It appears that the issue doesn’t even have anything to do with proximity to urban centers as Ryedale which shares a boundary with York only gets average speeds of 25Mbps.
The data also shows that there is very little regional difference when it comes to the rural vs urban broadband discrepancy. Residents in rural Dorset can expect download speeds of 26.9Mbps which is far less than Gateshead in Tyne and Wear (51Mbps) or nearby Bournemouth (61.2Mbps). The figures show that all in all there are 169 areas across the nation that have worse than average download speeds and 83% of those are in the rural counties. According to the CCN these figures indicate a “lack of investment in digital infrastructure in counties and a continuing ‘bias’ towards cities”.
This is beginning to be a cause for concern for various council leaders who are worried that not having access to high speed internet networks will prevent them from being able to realistically compete with their urban counterparts in attracting businesses. Last year, data compiled by Oxford Economics warned that economies in various countries were falling behind in an age where more modern businesses focused around technology and communication are beginning to eclipse more conventional industries.
One of the main issues faced by more rural areas is the difficulty they have in attracting high speed broadband providers to their towns. The more far flung locations are, for the most part, disproportionately expensive to connect and do not offer nearly as much return on investment as do larger towns and cities. There are various initiatives in place such as the Broadband Delivery UK scheme which combines both public and private funding to help extend high speed broadband networks to rural areas, although there are those who not think these are going far enough.
Councilor Philip Atkins, vice-chairman of the county councils network and leader of Staffordshire County Council, said: “The government’s commitment to provide superfast broadband to as many areas in England as possible has resulted in some significant steps forward in rural connectivity in the last few years.
“Counties like Staffordshire are working with national and local partners to connect hard to reach rural areas and improve broadband connectivity.
“Counties are great places to live and work, but these figures show that businesses in shire counties and rural areas are being left at a competitive disadvantage. It cannot be right that in some areas, businesses and residents in a city less than 10 miles down the road from a rural county benefit from average download speeds of more than three times faster.”
The Government pledged last year that from 2020, every home in the UK could expect high-speed internet as a right.