Poor mobile coverage 'harming rural quality of life'

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Poor mobile and broadband coverage in rural areas is exacerbated the sense of remoteness and harming quality of life. 

A new report from The Prince’s Countryside Fund and Scotland’s Rural College found inadequate connectivity was cited as one of the three biggest challenges to rural life, with respondents claiming better digital infrastructure would encourage young people and businesses to either stay or move to the countryside.

The report found that poor coverage was contributing to social isolation and rural poverty too.

Rural mobile coverage

Though keen to seize this potential, communities realise they must make sure those without technology are not excluded and that both digital training and offline channels must be provided.”

“An overwhelming majority of respondents told us that the biggest barriers faced by people living in a remote rural area is a forced reliance on private transport to access anything; limited or poor infrastructure in rural areas, including a lack of access to shops and services; and the ongoing issue of poor digital connectivity,” said Professor Sarah Skerratt, Director of Policy Engagement from Scotland’s Rural College.

At present, more than 95 per cent of the UK population can access superfast broadband, while EE is working towards ensuring the same figure has access to 4G by 2020. However, the government has said it wants the entire of the country to have access to ‘full fibre’ by 2033.

Respondents generally expressed a willingness to get involved with community projects and to engage with policy markers to resolve the issues, with the report noting that better digital connectivity would not only solve one of the main issues affecting rural communities, it could help to overcome other ones too.

“There is a strong desire to harness the possibilities that new technologies bring. First though, rural areas must be given reliable, resilient, high-speed broadband and universal mobile coverage. If this happens, rural people will innovate and then there can be a ‘bright future of digital possibilities’, including access to remote services; attracting businesses to the local rural area; networking and connecting (locally and beyond); communal fuel buying to help those in fuel poverty; or even e-cars, e-buses and e-charging points,” reads the report, before adding it would not be a silver bullet that solves all woes.

Though keen to seize this potential, communities realise they must make sure those without technology are not excluded and that both digital training and offline channels must be provided.”