Research from County Councils Network show west country and northern England lagging behind
Research has shown that rural areas across England often have broadband speeds three times slower than those enjoyed in neighbouring towns and cities, with the country’s northernmost counties and the West Country among the worst-affected areas.
A study of Ofcom data conducted by the local government body the County Councils Network, in conjunction with auditor Grant Thornton, has found that the average download speed across the 169 local-authority areas of England is 45mbit/s.
But the – substantially rural – areas represented by England’s 37 county councils have average speeds of 37.65mbit/s. Twenty-seven of these counties – about 72% of the total – have download speeds of below the national average, including 10 counties where the average download speed is less than the 30mbit/s needed to meet the baseline to be considered superfast by Ofcom.
By contrast, the non-county areas covered by unitary authorities – which are typically cities or large towns – have a collective average speed of 54.05mbit/s. Metropolitan boroughs have an average of 48.54mbit/s, while the mean across London’s boroughs is 47.71mbit/s.
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The juxtaposition between rural and urban areas – even those in very close proximity to one another – is illustrated by comparing the average speed of 25.8mbit/s in the district of Ryedale in North Yorkshire with that of 102mbit/s in the city of York, with which Ryedale shares a border.
There are similar stories in the south of the country where, for example, Bournemouth has average speeds of 61.2mbit/s, while the surrounding county of Dorset has just 26.9mbit/s.
The West Country is particularly bad for broadband speeds.
In addition to Dorset, the counties of Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Herefordshire, and Shropshire all having average speeds that do not qualify as superfast. England’s northernmost counties are also a broadband black spot, with Cumbria, Northumberland, and Durham all also having sub-30mbit/s mean speeds.
The other areas of the country where the average broadband speed is less than the superfast minimum are East Sussex, the Isle of Wight, Milton Keynes, and the London boroughs of Tower Hamlets and Westminster.
Philip Atkins, leader of Staffordshire County Council and vice chairman of the County Councils Network, said: “Counties are great places to live and work, but these figures show that businesses in shire counties and rural areas are being left at a competitive disadvantage. It cannot be right that in some areas, businesses and residents in a city less than 10 miles down the road from a rural county benefit from average download speeds of more than three times faster.”
He added: “While the government has announced investment in this area, we remain concerned that digital infrastructure in counties isn’t getting the attention it desperately needs.”