Wednesday, 20 April 2016 12:56

End digital inequality for rural areas

Written by  Ruralcity Media
End digital inequality for rural areas

RURAL residents with inadequate broadband connections should be compensated, say business leaders.

Every home and business owner must be given a legal right to fast, reliable and affordable broadband, said the Country Land and Business Association.

Failure to do so would mean continued "digital inequality" between urban and rural areas, it warned in response to a government consultation.

The CLA has called for compensation to be given to all those who are denied this legal right.

It has also underlined the importance of applying a mix of technologies to ensure that coverage reaches every home and business in rural areas.

    See also: Faster broadband to become legal right

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport consultation aims to help deliver a pledge by Prime Minister David Cameron for a minimum and universal broadband speed of 10Mbps from 2020.

CLA President Ross Murray said: "People living and working in the countryside have been putting up with poor or non-existent broadband service for too long."

Mr Murray acknowledged that connecting rural communities could be harder and not as profitable for infrastructure providers.

But he said: "This has made their lives more difficult and has put their businesses at a disadvantage – poor broadband is one of the greatest barriers to growth in the rural economy.

"Currently only half of rural homes and businesses can receive broadband of 10Mbps versus 96% in urban areas. This is the greatest technical hurdle that rural Britain is currently facing.

Mr Murray described the government's commitment to putting in place a USO of 10Mbps from 2020 as a "real win for rural people".

But it would only be meaningful if fast, reliable and affordable broadband was a legal right.

"If people are denied this legal right, they should have access to proportionate compensation," said Mr Murray.

It would be very difficult to reach 100% of people and businesses, especially those in remote areas, through fibre technology alone, he added.

"It is crucial that other broadband technologies are used as part of the mix to deliver the universal coverage that Government is seeking to achieve."

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