21 March 2022

Businesses’ views sought on rural broadband connection

Government survey

The National Innovation Centre for Rural Enterprise (NICRE) is collaborating with Building Digital UK (BDUK), part of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), to seek businesses’ views on rural broadband connection.

SMEs in rural areas are being invited to share their experiences of broadband connection and the effect this has on their business by completing a short survey.

NICRE and BDUK are working in partnership to find out more about current digital connectivity, its uses, opportunities and challenges in rural businesses to inform future service development and support by Government.

Current connectivity - barriers and benefits

Through this research, BDUK is looking to build a more comprehensive evidence base of the current connectivity conditions for rural SMEs, learn from those taking up faster connections, and find out the uses there are for gigabit connectivity and the differences it makes for businesses.

The UK Government is investing £5 billion though its Project Gigabit programme, connecting hard-to-reach areas to next generation broadband. It is also offering microgrants through the Gigabit Broadband Voucher scheme, allowing rural communities to club together to get connected.  

Dr Sreemoyee Roy Chowdhury, Social Researcher at BDUK, said: “Small and medium size businesses form the backbone of the rural economy. This research will help us learn more about current connectivity conditions for rural SMEs and the barriers they face. It will also identify the positive impacts experienced by those already benefiting from a faster and more reliable gigabit-capable connection.”

Melanie Thompson-Glen, Business Development Manager at NICRE, said: “For the majority of firms, broadband connection is key to running a successful business, but this can be problematic in rural areas.

“We know from our previous research that for many firms it’s a major obstacle to embracing digital technologies and they are therefore missing out on the opportunities that offers, however, that won’t be the case for others.

“We are delighted to be working in partnership with BDUK on this survey in order to get a fuller picture of the situation across the country and would encourage rural businesses - whatever their experience of broadband connection - to complete the survey.”

Alongside the survey, NICRE and BDUK are looking to speak to rural businesses in the North East to further explore their experiences, if any firm would like to get involved or find out more, email nicre@newcastle.ac.uk