A GOVERMENT decision not to fund the next generation of broadband technology will deliver a damaging blow to rural business, says the Country Land and Business Association which represents thousands of landowner, framers and small rural businesses.
The CLA says that a report by the Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) - recommending no government investment in next generation access network - is “seriously blinkered”. It insists that the rural economy would be severely hampered, along with the rest of industry, if government money was not ploughed into providing fast broadband services for all.
Douglas Chalmers, Director CLA North, said, “Universal fast broadband is not just for games and videos, it means industry and jobs. Some rural areas are already disadvantaged by existing broadband provision, which not only affects existing businesses but also stops new enterprises relocating and creating employment.
Some rural areas are already disadvantaged by existing broadband provision, which not only affects existing businesses but also stops new enterprises relocating and creating employment
Douglas Chalmers - Director CLA North
“Using effective broadband is a huge boon for all businesses, even more “traditional” ones such as farms. The benefits are even more significant when the communications options are either disappearing like rural post offices or becoming dearer such as fuel-driven transport.
“In addition new, high value and low impact businesses will not even consider moving to an area that doesn’t have this service. The future is having fibre optic connections to every door, but we never said it would be cheap. Industry is investing billions, but the digital divide has left many rural areas unable to compete and amply illustrates the failings of relying solely on the private sector.
“The solution must be a public/private sector partnership with the aim of achieving total fibre optic availability within 15 years.”
Five years ago, the CLA led a campaign against British Telecom’s refusal to install broadband techonology in hundreds of rural telephone exchanges, a campaign which was eventually successful in some areas. There, Internet based businesses have become an important and fast-growing part of the rural economy.
The Government backed that camping but, chronic overspend by Government departments combined with the credit crunch, has caused Whitehall to look round for every possible spending cut to reduce the black hole in the public finances. The decision to cut broadband support is just one of many which have hit particularly hard in rural areas.
- The BERR Report can be found here