Research has shown that poor internet connections and slow speeds have a damaging economic effect and that the gap between rural and urban areas is widening. This is a disincentive to business investment and adds to costs in the rural economy. It is predicted that although the urban-rural gap ‘will begin to narrow as superfast reaches more rural areas…better-connected (mostly urban) areas will also increase speeds at a high rate.’
Access to a good broadband service has long been an issue for those living and working in rural Herefordshire, and the Fastershire project has ensured that by 2018 78 per cent of homes and businesses can obtain download speeds of more than 30Mbps. Current contracts should deliver this capability to a total of 98 per cent by 2020. A solution is still to be found for the remaining two per cent of eligible households and businesses (around 4,000 properties).
However, only 41 per cent of those covered by the programme at the end of October 2017 had chosen to take up superfast broadband. Take-up is likely to be affected by the relationship between how much households or businesses feel they need the service, and how much it costs. Little is known about the reasons driving this low take-up rate in Herefordshire, so the topic would benefit from more research. See the digital inclusion section for further discussion.
Fastershire, a partnership between Gloucestershire County Council and Herefordshire Council, is tasked with bringing faster broadband to the two counties. Phase 1 of the project, in partnership with BT, aimed to provide 90 per cent of Gloucestershire and Herefordshire with fibre broadband with a minimum speed of 2Mbps by 2016. Phase 2 of the project, delivered by Gigaclear, will extend fibre coverage further across the county. The ultimate aim is that by the end of 2019/20 there will be access to fast broadband for all who need it. Herefordshire Council is committed to ensuring that each business or resident who can prove the need for a Next Generation Access (NGA) connection of over 24Mbps is able to get one.
 Two-speed Britain: Major study reveals impact of gap in Internet access between rural and urban area, University of Aberdeen, 2 September 2015. Available at https://www.abdn.ac.uk/news/8127/
Last updated: Thursday, July 19, 2018