Enhanced broadband access as a solution to the social and economic problems of the rural digital divide

Leanne Townsend, Arjuna Sathiaseelan, Gorry Fairhurst, Claire Wallace

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This paper discusses the social and economic problems of isolation faced by rural communities and explores broadband as a potential solution. Broadband is increasingly favoured for the delivery of information, health, education, business, Government and leisure services. Arguably, broadband is vital for rural communities to participate in a progressively digital economy and to alleviate physical and social isolation. However, around a third of the population is currently excluded from broadband connectivity, typically those in rural locations. This is partly due to technological difficulties in reaching more remote locations. Yet even where technology is available, adoption is often low in rural areas. This paper explores the impacts of broadband connectivity (and a lack thereof) in rural Britain. We discuss the extent to which broadband can solve the social and economic problems associated with rural isolation, taking into account barriers relating to access and adoption. The paper concludes with key development areas for policy and government.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)580-595
Number of pages16
JournalLocal Economy
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2013



  • broadband
  • digital divide
  • rural

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