Living, working and running a business in a rural area is the idyllic situation for many. Whilst the countryside offers beauty, community and tranquillity, in many cases, these benefits are offset by poor or non-existent broadband – particularly for businesses.
Why is high-speed internet so important?
A high-speed internet connection is vital in breaking down communication barriers related to distance and time, and allows rural businesses to expand their target audience far beyond that of their geographic base.
Availability of high-speed internet enables several benefits from both an economic and social perspective, and ultimately aids in the development of a whole economy and country.
To date, commercial investment has predominantly focused on urban and highly-populated areas, however, this kind of focus alienates the rural, remote and hard to reach areas of the UK.
Facts and figures to support the need for high-speed internet
In the UK and across the world, the rise of the digital age has fundamentally changed how we operate. According to the Federation of Small Businesses, 94% of SMEs view a reliable internet connection as critical to the success of their business1. With this figure in mind, it has been argued by many that a reliable, fast internet connection is core to a business and therefore should be made available to all.
A worrying discovery from a recent Go ON UK2 report found that almost one in four people in the UK don’t have the basic digital skills required to get by in today’s internet-focused society. The report also found that digital exclusion is particularly high in rural or hard to reach areas, where access to the internet is limited – usually by geographical features. Out of this digitally illiterate group, 1.2 million small businesses and over half of all charities lack the skills they need to survive in today’s digital age.
From a macro-economic point of view, it has been estimated that a 10% increase in broadband penetration can equate to a boost in GDP of anything up to 1.4%3, meaning the UK could increase its output, employment and earnings.
Challenges and barriers to providing rural broadband
There are two main challenges to providing rural broadband: geography and cost.
Location is the primary issue that provides a barrier to supplying rural broadband. Often if areas are remote, mountainous or island-based, the supply of broadband is too difficult and causes too many implications to implement. In some cases, the issues lie with planning permission, particularly within National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, where land is protected.
If the location is considered remote, the labour and equipment required to run standard fibre broadband is regarded too great for the low return on the investment needed. The UK Government has invested £1.7 billion4 in the expansion of rural broadband networks, however, the budgets allocated for each area are not always enough to cover all of the costs involved, again leaving certain areas, residents and businesses without a connection.
So, what is being done to tackle the problem?
The Government strategy for rural areas is to take superfast broadband to 95% of premises by 2017. Whilst some of these areas can be supplied via a fibre connection, there is percentage of areas that will not and cannot receive broadband through fibre, mainly due to location and financial circumstances.
With this in mind, Airband have built a fixed wireless (microwave) network, that can provide superfast broadband connections to areas that otherwise do not have access, or have poor broadband facilities.
As the largest fixed wireless Internet Service Provider (ISP), Airband’s network operates by relaying a microwave signal via small radios fixed to unobtrusive masts. These are deliberately located to overcome physical barriers such as hills, trees or structures, transmitting the internet wirelessly overground, rather than underground.
If you are struggling with poor and/or out of date broadband, fill in our enquiry form to find out whether there is a network in your area, or to register your interest in getting a network built in your area.
1The UK’s Broadband isn’t up to speed, says FSB, http://www.fsb.org.uk/News.aspx?loc=pressroom&rec=8677
2Digital skills charity Go ON UK unveils the UK’s first Digital Exclusion Heatmap, http://www.go-on.co.uk/blog/2015/10/digital-skills-charity-go-on-uk-unveils-the-uks-2/
4 The digital communications infrastructure strategy, https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-digital-communications-infrastructure-strategy/the-digital-communications-infrastructure-strategy