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Rural businesses losing out in broadband and mobile 'postcode lottery'

Friday, September 4th 2015 by Ellen Branagh

Good broadband and mobile coverage is “top of the list” when it comes to helping rural businesses succeed, according to the president of a country association.

Henry Robinson, president of the CLA, which represents landowners, farmers and rural businesses, said getting the coverage that businesses need is still a “postcode lottery”, meaning many are losing out.

Mr Robinson’s comments come as the CLA published its Rural Business County League Table, which scores each county on some of the criteria which can support or challenge rural businesses.

Those criteria include digital connectivity, broken down into scores for superfast broadband coverage and 3G coverage.

Cheshire topped the league table overall as the best county in England for running a rural business, while East Riding of Yorkshire was bottom of the table.

In scoring counties for their digital connectivity, the CLA took data from Ofcom’s interactive coverage map, showing the level of superfast broadband coverage per premises at a local level, and used the regulator's Infrastructure Report 2014 to look at the level of 3G coverage by all of the main operators per premises at a local level.

It then equated the percentages for broadband coverage to a score out of 15, and the percentage of mobile coverage was equated to a score out of 10.

When it comes to superfast broadband, Surrey scored highest with a score of 13.4 out of 15, followed by Hertfordshire at 13.1 and Nottinghamshire and West Sussex, both at 11.9.

The worst for superfast broadband coverage was East Riding of Yorkshire, with a score of 3.2, followed by Herefordshire with 6.6 and Devon with 6.8.

'Most remote areas'

And for 3G coverage, Hertfordshire scored the highest with 9.6 out of 10, followed by Surrey with 9.5 and Berkshire with 9.4.

Rutland was the worst county, at 0.6, while East Riding of Yorkshire and Norfolk were at 4.7 each.

Mr Robinson said: “In this table we shine a light on some of the main factors that can help a business succeed. The areas that top our list have rated most consistently across a range of factors.

“Top of the list is connectivity, almost any type of business can operate from a rural area if they have good quality mobile and internet connection.

“Unfortunately getting the coverage that a business needs remains a postcode lottery and too many businesses are losing out.

“We need government, councils and network providers to focus on delivery especially in our most remote areas.”

The CLA Rural Business County League Table is aimed to give a snapshot picture of the environment for rural businesses in each county in England.

According to the CLA, it is not intended to provide a comprehensive analysis, but an indication of the challenges faced by rural business.

In December, the CLA told MPs that rural areas were being disadvantaged by a lack of connectivity and called for minimum fixed broadband speeds of at least 10Mbps, and a drive to help the final 5% of rural areas get online.

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