Rural communities face economic risks as government unlikely to meet broadband goal

A failure to properly deliver broadband services to rural communities could prove damaging for economic development in some remote areas, the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) has said.

According to the BBC, the group, which represents businesses and landowners in rural England and Wales, has warned that the government’s broadband programme will be unlikely to meet its goal of providing universal coverage by 2015. The plan aims to offer Internet speeds of at least 2Mbps to all rural communities, where up to a fifth of people currently lack access to adequate broadband.

The CLA has long campaigned for affordable broadband in rural areas and is now calling for operators to legally be mandated to offer coverage across the country.

Though government ministers insist their plan is on target, the CLA says little progress has been made.

Last week, MPs said poor broadband provision was damaging the economy of Wales. Monmouth MP David Davies, who chairs the Welsh Affairs Committee, called for the Welsh and UK governments to invest more in the delivery of broadband to the country’s remote regions.

In a report published on 17 September, the committee said that rural Wales’ broadband "notspots and slowspots has hindered the operations of existing businesses and deterred new businesses from choosing to locate there to the cost of the local economy.”

"It is impossible to see how businesses or the economy can develop in these areas," said Davies.

"Both governments have extremely ambitious targets for broadband provision and there is little time left to meet them,” the report went on.

Reports in July suggested the rollout could be facing significant delays that would prevent the government from meeting its 2015 deadline. Soon afterwards, the Lords communications committee warned that the government’s broadband strategy may be misguided, and that officials are unwisely prioritising speed over geographical reach.