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Countryside Alliance chief says rural UK broadband is worst in Europe
The West Country and other rural parts of Britain have some of the worst broadband in Europe, Sir Barney White-Spunner of the Countryside Alliance has said.Broadband services in rural parts of the UK are lagging behind every other country in Europe, according to the new executive chairman of the Countryside Alliance.
Speaking to the Western Morning News, Sir Barney White-Spunner - a self-confessed "technology nut" - said the West Country is particularly poorly-served by broadband networks.
In Cornwall, 18 per cent of properties are stuck with speeds of less than 2Mbps, while this figure stands at 17.2 per cent in Devon, 17.9 per cent in Dorset, 17.7 per cent in Somerset, 17.6 per cent in Gloucestershire and 14.4 per cent in Wiltshire.
Across the UK as a whole, 14 per cent of homes and businesses are faced with this problem.
"If you look at every other country in Europe, you can get much better broadband and mobile coverage than we've got in rural areas - particularly the south-west," Mr White-Spunner insisted.
Describing next-generation broadband access as an essential requirement rather than a luxury, the Countryside Alliance chief said the technology has become a utility.
"Access to broadband and mobile now is as critical a service as gas, electricity or water," he stated. "You can barely run your life or a business without it."
At present, Mr White-Spunner is unable to use his mobile phone at his home in Beaminster, West Dorset, without first plugging it into the internet due to the poor level of connectivity in the area.
In order to address the problem, the government has created a £530 million funding pot to support the rollout of faster broadband in communities that are set to be excluded from commercial deployments.
Rural areas will be the main beneficiaries, as the distance from telephone exchanges and low population density in these locations means they present more of a challenge - and less chance of offering a return on investment - to telecoms firms.