The rural broadband debate: communities forced to find their own solution

For the vast majority of us, getting online isn’t something we lose sleep over. Whether it’s at home or at work we simply turn on our chosen device and voilà – we have the whole world at our fingertips. However, for those living in rural areas, it’s a completely different story.

Rural communities continue to become increasingly frustrated with the poor broadband infrastructure available to them, despite the promises and pledges that have come their way over the years. For many, broadband is following the same pattern that mobile phone access did – patchy availability and when there is access, it’s often of poor quality.

Although significant attention is now being dedicated to this issue, projections show that some rural areas across the UK will never get the sufficient broadband services required to be competitive or even fully take part in 21st century life. Despite the fact that the government intends 90% of homes to have access to high speed broadband by 2015, there is no mention of the remaining 10%. Achieving a quality connection for them may require communities to find their own solutions.

In light of this point, the Plunkett Foundation and Carnegie UK Trust has recently warned that more should be done to encourage rural community initiatives to deliver superfast broadband themselves. They are calling for communities to be inspired by other pioneering communities such as Cybermoor Ltd in Cumbria and Broadband for the Rural North (B4RN) and then supported in their efforts.

Plunkett Foundation’s Chief Executive, Peter Couchman has said:

“The Plunkett Foundation and the Carnegie UK Trust believe that governments and markets alone cannot meet the high aspirations of rural communities alone.

“The critical question to explore is how to empower rural communities to take a more active involvement in their broadband future. We are calling for the community enterprise model to be made more accessible, both in terms of technology and the language used to describe it.”

If affected communities do need to play a role in bridging the gap between government and market plans themselves, the debate has so far failed to empower them, as it seems taking on this challenge is something they currently feel unable to do.

As well as a distinct lack of support, many of these communities are also unaware of other viable alternatives available. Satellite broadband can provide fast internet connection to any rural area by using a satellite dish to receive a signal that is transferred to a broadband router which can then be shared over computers and smart phones. Satellite broadband doesn’t discriminate by location, which means that residents can enjoy high speed broadband without the need to wait for expensive networks to be built near their home. More information about 20 Mb satellite broadband and accessing the internet in rural areas can be found on our ToowayDirect site.