Broadband tops rural wish list

RURAL businesses and communities are putting a reliable broadband connection at the top of their New Year wish list, according to the Country Land and Business Association (CLA).

Official figures from Ofcom show that up to 20 per cent of rural areas are still unable to receive an effective and affordable broadband connection, while up to 35 per cent have no access to superfast broadband at all.

The CLA wants Government funding to bring rural areas up to speed.

CLA North East Director Angus Collingwood-Cameron said: “The Government is investing millions in improving broadband delivery and progress is being made, but it is not happening quickly enough in more remote rural areas, particularly in Northumberland.

“The rural-urban digital divide is growing at an alarming rate and causing major problems for farmers and landowners with commercial properties who have lost tenants because they cannot offer a superfast broadband connection.

“Rural communities without a reliable connection are suffering too – at times they cannot access key online facilities such as tax returns and bill payments and children can’t use the internet to help with homework.”

It is calling for the Government to increase the benchmark broadband speed to 5Mbps. Northumberland residents who support this can sign an online petition at www.cla.org.uk/Policy_Work/Petitions/ or call 020 74607934.