Defra and rural leaders welcome report
The report has been welcomed by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) and Rural England.
Lord Benyon, Minister for Rural Affairs, said: “Rural areas are at the heart of our vision for levelling up, and we welcome this report.
“We want businesses and people in rural areas to do as well as those in inner cities, and we are providing funding to put in place the infrastructure needed. This includes our £1 billion Shared Rural Network, £50 million of projects in the delivery pipeline to connect public buildings as part of the £5 billion to ensure hard-to-reach areas get gigabit connections.
“We have announced over £2.6 billion through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, and we will say more about rural funding shortly.”
Mark Tufnell, President of the CLA, said: “The findings of the report reaffirm our view that effective, reliable, and affordable broadband is fundamental to the success of rural business. Whilst it is recognised that significant progress has been made regarding the wider deployment of digital connectivity over the last decade, there remains a substantial rural-urban digital divide and it is essential that this is resolved as soon as possible.”
“The rural economy generates some £260bn gross value added (GVA) per year but rural areas are still 18% less productive than the national average. But if we can remove the barriers to rural economic growth, that include digital connectivity, lack of rural affordable housing and a planning system that is not fit for purpose, then we can begin to properly level up between rural and urban areas.”
Margaret Clark, Chair of Rural England Community Interest Company (CIC) Stakeholder Group, said: “This report comes at an important time as the Government presses forward with its Levelling Up programme. It provides a better understanding of the challenges facing rural businesses and rural economies which are often lost in national business surveys.
“It also reinforces the need for the metrics, measures and policies to bring about Levelling Up to be sufficiently sensitive and fine-tuned to recognise the particular circumstances and needs of rural businesses if the Government is to achieve its ambitions to unlock the potential across the whole country.”
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said that in three years, national gigabit broadband coverage has rocketed from six per cent to 67 per cent. The government is investing £5 billion in Project Gigabit: a national infrastructure programme to ensure hard-to-reach areas are first in line for a lightning-fast broadband connection, and up to £210 million in Gigabit Broadband Vouchers is available to give people in eligible rural areas immediate financial help to get gigabit speeds.
Since conducting this rural business survey in summer 2021, NICRE has teamed up with Building Digital UK, part of DCMS, to seek firms’ views of rural broadband connection and the effect it has on their businesses by inviting them to complete a short online survey.
(Picture credit: The Traveller and the Bear)