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Survey Finds Poor Broadband Holding Back Rural Businesses

Thursday, May 12th, 2022 (1:52 pm) - Score 552
rural countryside broadband uk isp

A new survey of over 4,000 businesses in England, which was conducted by the National Innovation Centre for Rural Enterprise (NICRE), has claimed that sub-standard infrastructure in rural areas – particularly the lack of quality broadband in many parts – is making it harder for businesses to be “resilient and bounce back from adversity“.

According to Ofcom (here), fixed broadband coverage at speeds of 30Mbps+ currently reaches 96%+ of the UK (28.1m premises), but this falls to 83% in rural areas. Meanwhile, the number of premises that cannot get a “decent broadband” (10Mbps+) service is 0.4% (123,000 premises) and gigabit-capable broadband only reaches 47% – before dropping to 25% in rural areas alone.

Suffice to say, if you live in one of those disadvantaged rural areas then running a business, particularly one that benefits from good internet connectivity, can be much more of a challenge. NICRE’s survey, which was conducted during August 2021, found that 34% of rural enterprises judged their broadband quality to be ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’, which compares to 20% of urban enterprises.


NICRE Co-director Professor, Stephen Roper, said:

“While evidence shows that access to a range of infrastructures and external resources can improve business outcomes and increase the ability of a firm to adapt and bounce back from adversity, little was known about the link between infrastructure and resilience before our survey.

Our significant results indicating a positive relationship between broadband quality and firm resilience during the Covid-19 pandemic are particularly important to the Levelling Up agenda, when viewed alongside the issues with access to, and quality of, broadband in rural areas.

Together they present a strong case for policy intervention to overcome the barriers preventing comprehensive high-quality broadband in rural areas, given its presence is likely to enhance resilience and, in turn, productivity growth of rural firms.

While our findings demonstrate clear differences in experiences between rural and urban firms, this is not the full picture. Considering variations within rural areas is as important as rural and urban comparisons in understanding the experiences of rural enterprises to develop policies that will truly Level Up Britain.”

The Government will no doubt highlight that their £5bn Project Gigabit rollout aims to ensure that a minimum of 85%+ of UK premises can access a gigabit-capable broadband ISP connection by the end of 2025, before possibly reaching “nationwide” (c.99%) coverage by the end of 2030 (here and here). But for many rural areas, such upgrades could still be years away.

In addition, there’s the industry-led £1bn Shared Rural Network (SRN) project, which aims to extend geographic 4G mobile coverage to 95% of the UK by the end of 2025 (it may also help the 5G rollout). The scheme essentially involves both the reciprocal sharing of existing masts in certain areas and the demand-led building and sharing of new masts in others between the operators.

The Government are currently also exploring what more they could do for those in the final 0.3% of very hard to reach premises, which we suspect may end up involving some degree of fixed wireless or satellite solutions (e.g. a subsidy for Starlink).

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
10 Responses
  1. Anthony Goodman says:

    Did they seriously need a poll for this? In another poll it was found rain is seriously effecting sunbathers. And lack of Snowfall is seriously affecting ice skaters.

    1. Brian says:

      Often wondered how to get a job researching the blindly obvious

  2. Disgruntled from Dankshire says:

    According to Ofcom (here), fixed broadband coverage at speeds of 30Mbps+ currently reaches 96%+ of the UK (28.1m premises), but this falls to 83% in rural areas.

    Meanwhile in Dankshire this also happens is small towns.

    1. John says:

      Does Dankshire have dank memes in there?

    2. Anthony Goodman says:

      I cannot believe that statistic. As I lived quite literally 400m from my cabinet (not how the crow flies but how the cabling was laid from it, as in 400m of cabling) and both I and my next door neighbour was only getting 26mb/s. In rural areas its highly unlikely people would be living so close to their cabinets so no way could they get more than I was.

    3. Disgruntled from Dankshire says:

      @Anthony Goodman
      If you line is really 400m then there is something wrong, as you are well within the 1000m recommended distance (from the Huawei documentation) Your attenuation figure (from the router statistics) may reveal an approximation of the distance.
      You may have aluminium lines which are inferior to copper.
      For a comparison I am 1500m from the dslam and enjoy sub superfast speeds of 22Mbs, on a heavily used extended dslam, so the potential for cross talk will increase. My attenuation is 32dB and I am on copper lines.

  3. Disgruntled from Dankshire says:

    Please explain

    Meanwhile in Dankshire this also happens in small towns.

  4. Kyle says:

    Not only is it slow in rural and semi rural, but it’s costly too. The price for the phone line rental and standard broadband services keeps going up without any improvement to the service, which helps pay for everyone else’s much faster fibre lines. How is that fair?

  5. Gary H says:

    We really need a survey to indicate just how pointless more surveys are.

  6. RobfromMars says:

    It doesn’t mean that those 123k premises should be left behind. I came across this Hybrid solution from XtndNet, which really improved reliability and download speeds. If interested, you should sign up with them as they are still running a Free Beta-Test for those less fortunate. call it the more sustainable and affordable *link. here’s the sign-up page: https://xtndnet.com/get-xtndnet/

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