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Figures highlight difference between urban and rural broadband access

Friday, August 9th 2013 by Cable.co.uk
Figures highlight difference between urban and rural broadband access
The gap between urban and rural broadband speeds is greater than ever.

There was cause for celebration this week, as Ofcom released figures showing that the average broadband download speed for residential properties had hit 14.7Mbps in the six months up to May 2013, up from just 9.0Mbps in the same period the previous year.

However, the statistics also served to highlight the incredible difference between access to fast internet services in urban and rural areas.

When broken down, it was clear that those in towns and cities are benefiting from much faster speeds than their countryside counterparts. Indeed, urban dwellers could achieve an average download speed of 26.4Mbps, while the rural equivalent was just 9.9Mbps.

Although this did represent an increase from the 5.9Mbps recorded in 2012, it still means countryside households lag behind those in cities by an incredible 16.5Mbps - and as such, they won't be able to access many services others take for granted, like the BBC iPlayer.

Ofcom explained that the discrepancy is down to line lengths between the central exchange and people's properties being much shorter in towns and cities, as well as rural areas not having as much access to superfast cable and fibre optic technology.

Even worse, the regulator admitted things are going to get worse between the 'haves' and 'have-nots' before they get better, because telecoms providers are still focusing more attention on the UK's largest conurbations.

Ofcom's Consumer Group Director Claudio Pollack commented: "We are yet to see the full effect of government measures to improve broadband availability in rural areas, which should also help to boost speeds."

It is sure to provide further disappointment for rural residents, particularly after the National Audit Office recently carried out research and found that out of 44 countryside locations, only nine are on target to be connected to better broadband by 2015.

The worst areas for high-speed broadband access were found to be in parts of Merseyside, Oxfordshire and Derbyshire, with many locations there having no idea when they will get superfast infrastructure.

Insult may have been added to injury given that the government is spending £42.6 billion on the high-speed rail link HS2 at a time when so many people are struggling with pitifully inadequate broadband.

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