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Rural connectivity still a minor concern for some people, finds uSwitch

BT Openreach Broadband Rural

Price comparison service uSwitch has done a survey that found some people are deterred from moving to the country because they’re worried about connectivity.

Yes, we know, not the most earth-shattering revelation, but it’s a Friday and some people might care. The table below shows how urban survey respondents answered when asked “Have you read or heard about any of the following issues used to describe living in the countryside?” Just over half (around 900 respondents) flagged up connectivity issues and uSwitch has decided that’s enough data to justify the following headline for its press release: “Dodgy broadband deters nine million from rural living”.

Rural living concern % of people concerned
Poor transport links 61%
Slow or unreliable broadband connections 58%
Poor or no mobile signal 55%
Lack of public services (eg doctor surgeries, schools etc) 48%
Lack of activities available (eg cinemas, restaurants etc) 42%

“It’s ludicrous that in 2018 broadband and mobile phone signal is a factor influencing where in the UK people choose to live,” said Ernest Doku of uSwitch. “The only explanation is that providers have been guilty of a ‘build it and they will come’ mentality – simply assuming that their work is done as soon as they have provided the infrastructure for faster services and not doing enough to make sure that their customers are aware that better services are available.”

So the big scoop seems to be that, despite rural connectivity infrastructure being quite good, a few people don’t realise that and so factor that into their thinking when contemplating a move to the country. Cost, commuting, other infrastructure and their feelings about the smell of dung may also play a part too, of course.

Even by the standards of politicians, the canned quote uSwitch got from Shadow Digital Minister Liam Byrne was shamelessly opportunistic. “These Teletext Tories are simply failing to provide the investment we need to rollout high speed broadband in areas that are harder to reach,” he whittered. “This has not been helped by the fact we’ve seen four different culture secretaries in just two years and now we’re lagging behind our European neighbours. The Tories seem determined to leave Britain as a cyber slow coach.”

It’s not obvious what the point of all this was. USwitch has a strategic interest in making everyone in the UK as dissatisfied with their utilities as possible, because then they’re more likely to go to uSwitch and use it to shop around, resulting in revenue for uSwitch. But which demographic is more likely to change CSP as a result of this news?

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