Here is an overview of the Countryside Alliance briefing on the digital divide, produced ahead of a Westminster Hall debate on Thursday 04 November. Addressing poor digital connectivity in rural areas would be one of the most potent means of bridging the UK’s digital divide. Government and broadband providers’ financial commitments to full fibre must be delivered in hard-to-reach rural areas to ensure they can benefit. Continued poor connectivity in rural areas represents a huge, missed opportunity for economic development. The current lack of broadband infrastructure serving small firms threatens the expansion of the rural economy, currently worth £400bn annually. The business opportunity includes 28 per cent of all UK firms and over one million small businesses. The Countryside Alliance welcomes the continued investment in digital infrastructure through Project Gigabit and the Shared Rural Network that was announced in the Budget. Delivering full fibre and gigabit capable broadband to the countryside by 2025, as committed to in the 2019 Conservative General Election Manifesto, has already been watered down in 2020 so this additional funding is essential if the government wants to meet its ambition of levelling up. Countryside Alliance research conducted with the UK’s largest rural alt-net, Gigaclear, revealed the extent to which CovID-19 has once again highlighted the disparity in broadband connectivity across the country. Millions of Britons have suffered as a result of poor connectivity and outages. As the Government rightly focuses on recovery, we believe connectivity should be at the top of the government’s list of topics to review and is a key part of the levelling up agenda. You can read our briefing note in full here.