Poor broadband hinders resilience among rural businesses, study finds
Sub-standard infrastructure in rural areas, particularly lack of quality broadband, is affecting businesses’ ability to be resilient and bounce back from adversity, according to a survey from the National Innovation Centre for Rural Enterprise (NICRE).
Around a third of rural enterprises in the North East, South West and West Midlands, compared to a fifth of urban firms, judged their broadband quality to be “poor” or “very poor”, with the survey findings illustrating the significance of broadband quality to business resilience during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Rural businesses were also twice as likely than urban firms to rate their transport infrastructure as “poor” or “very poor” with almost six out of 10 having the same perceptions of public transport, compared to 21 per cent of urban firms.
With similarly much lower ratings from rural businesses than urban for the availability of affordable housing and provision of basic services, NICRE’s evidence highlights the importance of addressing the full breadth of rural infrastructure deficits in the Levelling Up agenda.
One award-winning rural business which knows first-hand the positive impact of quality broadband and its link to resilience is Laverock Law Cottages and Glamping, near Lowick in Northumberland.
For years, owners Harvest and Dave Harris-Jones struggled with poor broadband, but the situation came to a head during Covid. With their two children home-schooling, Harvest training to be a yoga teacher, increasing numbers of virtual meetings and mounting expectations from guests, they decided it needed to be addressed.
Dave commented: “Connection had always been a problem for us. It was a case of one user at a time, a constant juggle and compromise between family and guests and incredibly frustrating.
The world changed so much during Covid with online bookings for attractions becoming the norm and guests expecting to be able to stay connected to loved ones, not to mention carry out the odd virtual work meeting. We were on the verge of losing business unless we addressed it.“
NICRE co-director Professor Stephen Roper is Director of the Enterprise Research Centre, which led the report and is one of NICRE’s founding university partners.
He said: “While our findings demonstrate clear differences in experiences between rural and urban firms, this is not the full picture. Considering variations within rural areas is as important as rural and urban comparisons in understanding the experiences of rural enterprises to develop policies that will truly Level Up Britain.”
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