THE Government's Countryside Agency today (May 7) joined in the growing row over the lack of broadband internet coverage in rural areas, saying "it can present an expensive obstacle to new rural business."
It chose to launch its thinly veiled attack on British Telecom as the main subject of its fifth State of the Countryside report, which carries a broad range of statistical evidence on country life, some good, some bad.
Many economists believe that the Internet will be the key to creating more jobs in the countryside, without the environmental damage associated with more traditional industries, but BT is refusing to install broadband transmission technology into many rural telephone exchanges.
In its report, the Countryside Agency says that in urban areas, two thirds of the population can access broadband but that drops to 26% in market towns, 7% in rural villages - and a mere 1% in remote rural areas, which includes large pockets of the Yorkshire Dales,
Says agency chairman Sir Ewen Cameron: "Our countryside is a hive of economic activity but our report shows that restricted access to broadband is putting rural businesses and residents at a disadvantage."
Our countryside commentator, John Sheard, will discuss at greater length the State of the Countryside in A week in the country this weekend.