FSB says poor broadband is holding back rural businesses header image

Poor quality broadband is having a negative impact on companies in rural areas, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has claimed.

Simon Williams, the organisation's regional chairman for North Yorkshire, said this is one of several factors that are making it difficult for businesses in the countryside to succeed. 

Speaking to the Yorkshire Post, he stated: "Rural businesses face challenges not encountered by their urban counterparts.

"They struggle against the odds of poor communications, unreliable broadband services and patchy, un-integrated transport services."

Mr Williams called on the government to devise policies that will allow local authorities to effectively support rural businesses. 

His opinion was echoed by David Cutter, chief executive of Skipton Building Society, who said he would like to see the coalition incentivise internet service providers to upgrade broadband services in the countryside "on an equal footing" with urban areas. 

The extent of the divide between rural and urban broadband has been revealed by recent figures from Ofcom, which show the average download speed in the countryside was 11.3 Mbps at the end of 2013, compared to 31.9 Mbps in large towns and cities.

However, the situation may be even worse than these figures suggest. Dominic Baliszewski of Broadband Choices said the 11.3 Mbps rural average reported by the telecoms watchdog will likely be "dismissed as fantasy" by many people in the countryside who struggle to get a connection speed of more than two Mbps. 

Mr Baliszewski also suggested the 31.9 Mbps urban average may not provide a fair reflection of true broadband speeds. He said this was due to high-speed fibre connections pushing the figure up and claimed only a minority of Brtions have access to this technology.

The broadband expert claimed 69 per cent of the population are using ADSL connections, meaning many of these will be unable to receive a connection faster than ten Mbps.