Countryside Alliance criticises rural broadband
A lack of fast and reliable broadband connectivity presents significant difficulties for remote and isolated communities, according to a rural campaign group.
Sarah Lee, head of policy at the Countryside Alliance, said the organisation's members regularly state that poor or non-existent broadband is a "major problem" for these areas.
Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, she insisted broadband is now so crucial it should be seen as the fourth utility.
"A fast, secure and reliable broadband network ought to be seen by local and central government as having the same importance as a reliable gas, electricity or water supply," Ms Lee stated.
Her comments come shortly after the latest Ofcom broadband research showed the UK's average download speed rose to 7.6Mbps in November 2011, up from 6.8Mbps last May and 6.2Mbps the previous November and December.
According to the regulator, the increase was largely down to the number of customers who switched to different packages or providers offering faster speeds.
Last November marked the first time that more than half of all residential broadband connections in the UK had a headline or advertised download rate of over 10Mbps.
Ed Richards, chief executive of Ofcom, said consumers can look forward to further speed increases in the coming years and noted that the majority of households are now able to access super-fast broadband packages.
"These services are set to get faster still as Virgin Media aims to double the speeds of most of its cable services and BT aims to double the speed of its fibre-to-the-cabinet service," he added.
The Countryside Alliance is not the first rural rights group to complain about the quality of broadband connectivity away from Britain's towns and cities.
Earlier this month, the Country Land and Business Association argued that Virgin Media is ignoring rural communities by choosing to double the speeds available in metropolitan areas, rather than improving capabilities away from urban centres.