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Nearly half of rural deprived areas are classed as 5G not-spots

The Countryside Alliance welcomes continued investment in digital infrastructure through the Shared Rural Network and Project Gigabit.

The absence of broadband infrastructure serving small firms threatens the expansion of the rural economy. The business opportunity includes 28% of all UK firms and over one million small businesses.

A report issued by Vodafone in November 2023 found that nearly half (46%) of rural deprived areas are classed as 5G not-spots, whereas the same can only be said for 2.7% of urban deprived communities.

Ofcom’s Connected Nations report, published in December 2023, provided further evidence of rural areas lagging behind urban areas in 5G access, 5G installations on mobile network infrastructure, 4G outdoor availability and 4G and voice indoor availability.

We support government proposals for policy interventions and agree that an alternative approach is required to ensure hard to reach premises can receive a gigabit-capable connection. We are concerned, however, about where the funding will come from.

The Universal Service Obligation remains crucial in rural areas for ensuring equitable access to communication and information technologies. It helps bridge the digital divide, fostering economic development, education, and healthcare access in regions that might otherwise be underserved or excluded.

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