FUEL prices have overtaken slow broadband as the biggest rural issue, a computer guru has warned.
Petrol prices are the critical issue facing rural businesses, said internet boss Chris Stanbury, managing director of Cravenplan Computers.
In an interview on BBC Radio Wiltshire, Mr Stanbury said fuel costs were already costing employees of rural companies hundreds of pounds a year.
"There are a lot of advantages to operating a company in a rural area - we work in a peaceful environment, away from the noise and distractions of the city, and the picturesque location certainly provides a morale boost."
"The cost of petrol is undoubtedly the biggest issue facing rural business owners and their staff at the moment."
"Employees who commute to a rural office, particularly those travelling half an hour or more every day, incur considerable fuel expenses each week."
Expenditure on petrol or diesel was often unavoidable, said Mr Stabury, because public transport in rural areas was scarce, if not non-existent.
"This is a problem which is only going to become more serious with the impending fuel strikes over the coming weeks."
Mr Stanbury's comments follow news that rural businesses are set to benefit from a £60m government grant.
The announcement earlier this year by Defra secretary Caroline Spelman came in the wake of concern of poor rural broadband speeds.
But Mr Stanbury said: "The fact is that this is a relatively minor issue for businesses when compared with the current cost of petrol.
"Most essential business use of the Internet is limited to text and picture content.
"When websites have been created efficiently with properly optimised images they should download quickly, even over a modem.
"There is no excuse for sloppy, bloated websites."
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