Rural based business communities risk being “left behind” and “isolated” because they have to put up with third-rate connectivity services, an expert has warned.
Roy Shelton said an urgent “levelling up” was required to end the discrimination many companies face.
Mr Shelton, the CEO of the Connectus Group, which is one of the fastest growing ISP and Managed Service Providers in the UK, said: “COVID-19 transformed the working environment for everyone as kitchen tables, spare rooms and garden-sheds were turned into offices. Now, with restrictions lifted, millions are continuing to work from home with some of us even switching to WFH five-days a week.
Yet while the wonders of modern-technology proved a business lifeline during lockdown, post pandemic working has shone a light on an issue which for too long has been ignored.”
A number of recent reports have highlighted the challenges those living in rural or remote spots have with connectivity. Time and time again research has indicated those residing outside of towns and cities face having to put up with third-rate services that often leave them frustrated and unable to effectively work remotely.
In January the respected Rural Services Network released a damning report suggesting residents of England’s small towns and villages face being digitally excluded and locked out of key services. They called for an urgent review into the “underinvestment in rural connectivity” warning hundreds of thousands faced being left behind.
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Last month a report released last month by the National Farmers Union concluded the rural connectivity issues were holding UK food production back. And just days ago a Lancaster University study revealed how digital poverty now existed across North West’s rural communities with one in four struggling to complete key tasks online.
But things don’t need to be that way.
“For too long businesses in rural communities have been discriminated against based on being digitally isolated,” Mr Shelton added. “The impact and consequences of this are severe. Many of these businesses are unable to scale their enterprises due to a lack of high speed broadband and access to collaborative IT solutions. Levelling up services really, really matters. The rural economy is varied and reaches far beyond traditional land management industries. Rural areas can contribute to all economic sectors. Today around 28 percent of England’s firms are rural and they contribute at least 19 per cent of Gross Value Added to the English economy.”
“That’s why these businesses need to be supported in the same way as those in more urban and city centre locations. They should not have to worry about cost, reliability and security of the IT requirements. Their connectivity should help them grow – not hold them back.”