Whilst much of the UK enjoys the kind of fast, consistent and affordable broadband that a rich, advanced society should, there’s no doubting that some areas have been left behind.
Chief amongst those areas is Wales, which still has some of the lowest connection rates and slowest speeds in the UK. This is despite the 5-year ‘Superfast Cymru’ scheme elaborated at beta.gov.wales/go-superfast/what-are-my-options, which reached a total of 733,000 homes and businesses.
On the mobile broadband front too, there remains significant scope for improvement. Whilst a respectable 79% of urban homes enjoy 4G coverage according to ofcom.org.uk/about-ofcom/latest/media/media-releases/2018/getting-rural-areas-connected-in-wales, rural properties endure coverage rates of just 36%.
Thankfully, work is being done to improve broadband in Wales, with a successor to the Superfast Cymru scheme in operation to bring 80,000 more homes into the fold in areas like Powys and Ceredigion.
However, whilst critics would suggest that fast broadband in rural areas should be market-led and not subsidised by taxes, there’s little doubt that superfast broadband would be transformational for rural Wales. Here are three huge reasons why:
Jobs, Jobs, Jobs
The internet is often blamed for the fall of the high street and its associated job losses, but is that true? Well, evidence suggests that access to fast internet creates far more jobs and has a far more positive impact on GDP than you might think.
Research from McKinsey found that the internet contributes 3.4% to GDP across the thirteen countries they studied, as explained at mckinsey.com/industries/high-tech/our-insights/internet-matters. Although such impressive figures are unlikely in Wales thanks to existing coverage, there’s little doubting the positive impact the internet can have on impoverished areas of Wales.
On the job creation front, the internet enables entrepreneurs of any age to create successful businesses without having to leave for major cities, boosting rural areas which often suffer from brain-drain issues as smart, young people leave to find work.
Many of those living in rural areas value the quiet on offer, but it’s increasingly hard to notice that as entertainment has moved online, options have become slim in rural areas.
Streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime offer unmissable streaming film and TV events. In a different subsector of the entertainment economy, leading online casinos like Paddy Power use live feed video to bring the real casino experience to the home, with live roulette featuring as one of the multiple roulette options at casino.paddypower.com/c/roulette. Even catch-up TV services like the BBC iPlayer and 4OD require fast internet connections.
These services, whilst non-essential, are hugely important for rural areas to retain their communities and for general wellbeing.
Rural communities without access to things like local banking facilities are often left to flounder, especially as the high-street loses its prominence. It’s a situation which has seen many communities move closer to cities where their everyday essential needs can be met.
Greater internet access in rural areas will bring with it the convenience of online banking, bill management, customer service help and even food shopping.
For those who’ve enjoyed reliable internet before, these quality-of-life and convenience improvements become a part of everyday life that’s second nature. As the internet encourages businesses to retreat from physical spaces, it’s increasingly vital that each and every home and business has fast, reliable access to the internet, whether that’s on your phone, your tablet or your computer.