Rural welcome for government’s digital connectivity plan

Press release

Wednesday, 25 July 2018
The Rural Services Network [1] has welcomed a government pledge to prioritise the connection of hard-to-reach rural areas to faster broadband services.

The promise is contained in a national, long-term strategy for UK telecommunications announced by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport [2].

RSN chief executive Graham Biggs said: “Many rural residents and businesses continue to face multiple barriers in terms of access to key services – including adequate broadband provision.

“This is a positive and ambitious announcement, and has to potential to have a significant and far-reaching positive impact on rural areas.

“We look forward to this pledge being honoured – it promises some long-overdue and much-needed public investment that will help to future proof digital connectivity in the countryside."

Mr Biggs said the network also welcomed the government's commitment that public investment in full fibre for rural areas will begin simultaneously with commercial investment in urban locations.

He said: “Starting with the hardest-to-reach places where there is obvious market failure is a sensible approach, rather than spending money on areas that possibly would have been broadband-enabled anyway."

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Editors notes:

[1] The Rural Services Network is the only non-governmental organisation representing the interests of rural service providers and the communities that they serve. It involves currently some 154 Local Authorities and over 100 other service providers. It comprises SPARSE Rural, the Rural Assembly, the wider Rural Services Partnership and the RSN Community Group. The organisation works with Rural England, a stand-alone CIC research group. For details, visit

[2] The Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review (FTIR), announced as part of the government’s modern Industrial Strategy, was published on Monday (23 July). It promises that public investment in full fibre for rural areas to begin simultaneously with commercial investment in urban locations. For details, visit


Media contact:

Graham Biggs
RSN Chief Executive
T: 01588 674 922
M: 07966 790197

Our Key Messages:

Public Sector Funding
Central Government has historically and systematically underfunded rural areas giving them less grant per head than urban areas – despite the fact that it costs more to provide the services. Rural residents earn less on average than those in urban areas and therefore pay more Council Tax for fewer local government services. Government policy, implicitly, is that council services in rural areas are more reliant on funding through council tax than their urban counterparts. We demand fairer funding for all public services serving rural areas.

Barriers to Access
Rural residents and businesses face multiple barriers in terms of access to key services, including transport and broadband. Yet councils providing services to rural residents receive less money from government, pay disproportionately more for fewer services and typically earn less than people in urban areas. As a result rural residents suffer multiple disadvantages.

Future of Rural Areas
Rural communities contribute a great deal to the national economy but are facing threats to their future. This is due to a combination of chronic underfunding, demographic challenges, diminishing resources, with the needs of rural areas being systematically overlooked. Without action conditions in rural areas will deteriorate further. It is in the national interest that we all work together to revitalise this fundamental national asset.

Health and Wellbeing
Despite its idyllic image, rural communities often experience difficulties in accessing health and support services. This is becoming increasingly difficult as specialist services are centralised to remain resilient and poor transport links reduce access. There are recruitment and retention issues amongst medical staff in rural areas. Rural residents are therefore vulnerable to isolation and poorer health outcomes in the long term.


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