Rural broadband improvements 'not making good enough progress' header image

The National Association of Local Councils (NALC) is the latest organisation to express unhappiness with the way the government has handled the rollout of improved broadband services in the rural UK.

Chief executive of the group Jonathan Owen gave evidence to the Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs Select Committee, which is looking into the issue, last week (December 3rd) and has called on the authorities to do more.

"Broadband is an issue across the entire country, we are not making good enough progress. We are not making good enough progress with the roll out of broadband, especially in rural areas," he stated.

"There is a feeling that rural areas are being overlooked in terms of faster broadband speeds and even connectivity - it is leading to a digital divide in this country," Mr Owen added.

He claimed the "top-down" approach taken by BT has alienated communities and is raising expectations that are then not being met. 

The NALC leader called on the government to explore the use of alternative technologies if this problem is to be solved. One such alternative may be satellite broadband, which was recently highlighted by CLA president Henry Robinson as a means of connecting the countryside.

Also giving evidence to the Select Committee, Mr Robinson said the technology is ideally suited to improving internet access in the final five per cent of hard-to-reach areas. Meanwhile, Mr Owen stated those people living in these areas should at least be made aware of when they can expect to be connected.

The NALC claimed the lack of reliable broadband is having a damaging impact on the growth of the rural economy, which is significant as these areas contribute close to a third of the Gross Value Added to the overall UK economy. 

It called on the government to focus on delivering speeds that are faster than two Mbps if this problem is to be resolved, as there are currently numerous towns and villages suffering with slow speeds.