Digital divide is still real in rural areas: 17% of rural homes and businesses still can’t receive decent broadband and 82% can’t receive a 4G signal

Ofcom’s Connected Nations 2017 Report released today (15 December 2017) states that 1.1m premises still don’t have access to decent broadband, meaning that 17% of rural homes and businesses are unable to receive decent broadband and 82% can’t receive a 4G signal. It is an improving picture for rural areas but progress is slow and the digital divide is still significant, holding back the countryside economically and socially.

  • 17% of premises in the UK’s rural areas cannot receive a download speed of at least 10Mbit/s compared to just 2% of urban premises.
  • 233,000 small businesses cannot receive decent broadband.
  • 57% of premises in rural areas do not receive a mobile signal from all four mobile networks compared to 90% of all UK premises.
  • ‘Total’ geographic 4G coverage, where reception is available from all four mobile operators, is available across just 43% of the UK’s landmass.
  • 82% of rural premises can’t receive a 4G signal indoors compared to 36% of urban premises.

The increased investment in full fibre connectivity is to be welcomed but we need this financial commitment by businesses to be matched in rural areas to ensure they can also benefit from the opportunities fibre connection brings. The Countryside Alliance also supports the proposal for Ofcom to use coverage obligations to improve mobile coverage in rural areas when they award the 700MHz band.

Sarah Lee, Head of Policy at the Countryside Alliance commented “We know that poor connectivity continues to be a huge concern for those who live and work in rural areas which is why Ofcom’s Connected Nations Report 2017 is to be welcomed as it gives us a real insight into the size of the digital divide. It is important for providers and Government to continue working together and investing to improve coverage in rural areas so that the countryside receives the same coverage as its urban neighbours. We will continue to be the voice of rural communities when it comes to the lack of connectivity in the countryside and hold Government and providers to account on delivery.”