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Naff Rural Broadband in England Helping to Push People into Urban Areas

Monday, November 13th, 2017 (8:35 am) - Score 579
rural village national housing federation

The National Housing Federation has warned that a combination of factors (e.g. poor broadband, few jobs, expensive housing, closed post offices and an ageing population etc.) is contributing to a rise in the movement of people out of rural areas and into cities (especially younger people).

The NHF’s Rural Life Monitor 2017 report notes that 1 in 5 English households live in rural areas and such places have a lot to offer, such as better life expectancy and a higher proportion of pupils leaving school with five GCSEs graded A*-C2. However, the make-up of rural communities is changing and by 2039 nearly half of rural households could be aged over 65, but that’s not all.

Over the last five years, 52 rural schools shut their doors to pupils (roughly one a month) and Post offices are closing at a similar rate. Meanwhile, between March 2013 and December 2016, some 1,365 rural pubs are said to have closed. Rural shops and hotels are also suffering as a result. Another contributing factor is said to be that of poor broadband connectivity.

Rural Life Monitor 2017 Quote

We know that many people choose to leave rural areas and commute to nearby towns and cities to work, with some choosing to move out altogether for that reason. Young members of the rural population move to urban areas for university, and do not return.

Rural connectivity to broadband and public transport limits the number of people willing to start and run businesses from rural areas. By 2039, the number of working age households in England is projected to fall by 1% in rural areas while increasing in urban areas by nearly 11%.

Sadly the new report doesn’t include any statistics to support their statement about broadband, although the impact of poor internet connectivity is quite easy for most people to understand. On the other hand the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK programme is continuing to rollout “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) services and these are on target to reach about 95% coverage of the UK by the end of this year, before rising to 98% by around 2020.

Put another way, broadband connectivity is still improving but it does take a lot of time, and money, to reach such remote areas and sparse communities (operators often struggle to get a return on their investment without state aid). As a result quite a few people still have to wait a lot of years for something better than bog standard ADSL or usage restrained Satellite, which isn’t going to be solved overnight.

The Government is also trying to introduce a “legally-binding” 10Mbps minimum broadband speed via a new Universal Service Obligation (USO), which could help to tackle poor connectivity for the final 2% of UK premises. But there is some frustration that the UK has been unable to complement this by setting a softer 100% coverage commitment for “superfast broadband” (almost every other EU member state has already set one).

However the proposed plan for a 10Mbps USO (here) still faces some tedious regulatory and competition concerns (example), which will need to be resolved before it can move forward. The Government hopes to set out their final decision before the end of this year.

Meanwhile the NHF is understandably more focused on helping to solve the underlying problem by encouraging the construction of affordable homes, although this is clearly only one part of a bigger problem.

David Orr, Chief Executive at the National Housing Federation, said:

“Make no mistake, rural life as we know it is disappearing fast. Families and young people wanting to settle, work and grow in rural England are being priced out of areas they’ve known all their lives.

The impact of this is huge. A lack of truly affordable housing is putting a huge strain on rural economies, populations and vital community services – schools are closing their doors forever to pupils and pubs are serving their last ever orders to locals.

Housing associations are intervening to stem this tide. They are proving that just a handful of high quality and affordable new homes can transform rural communities, and ensure that our villages and market towns can thrive for generations to come.”

Last year, housing associations built 3,030 homes in rural areas of England, and started building 3,769. “Building homes enables families to remain within the communities they have been in for generations, and this can support rural services by allowing them to remain open,” said the NHF.

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Mark Jackson

By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he is also the founder of ISPreview since 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.

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5 Responses
  1. CarlT

    I’m sure broadband is a small factor but as noted in the story the biggest one by a mile is cost of housing.

    Attempts to build housing in many rural areas usually trigger a whole bunch of middle-aged people who think house building should have stopped the moment their own property was built and who don’t want their village / view / house price impacted.

    If house prices ever get back to the 3.5:1 ratio with the average person’s income we will see if this is still a problem.

    Housing construction would I suspect contribute to better broadband provision.

    • Webbs

      @CarlIT

      “Attempts to build housing in many rural areas usually trigger a whole bunch of middle-aged people who think house building should have stopped the moment their own property was built and who don’t want their village / view / house price impacted.”

      This. Having grown up in a very rural area (and currently living in a new build home within a rural village) I find myself having to restrain my anger at more ‘senior’ residents who are currently campaigning to prevent further homes being built in the area. I should open a shop selling pitch forks and torches, would make a killing.

  2. occasionally factual

    In the full report there is one 1 mention of broadband and nothing about solutions. It ranks with public transport and the report gives no evidence of that single sentence’s conclusion.
    “Rural connectivity to broadband and public transport limits the number of people
    willing to start and run businesses from rural areas.”
    http://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/pub.housing.org.uk/Affordable_Housing_Saving_Rural_Services_-_Rural_Life_Monitor_2017.pdf

  3. Providing rural broadband at a faster delivery rate than existing commitments are what new technologies are striving to achieve.
    All is not lost – and there are cost effective solutions available, currently we supply fast 4G solutions for SME’s and businesses in rural areas.

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