Rural broadband lags further behind as speeds in towns are doubled

Average broadband speeds in the whole of the UK have doubled in the last two years, but those in rural areas are still stuck on the wrong side of an ever-increasing divide.

Rural broadband is steadily improving, but still leaves a lot to be desired as superfast cities leap further ahead leaving out-of-town households behind.

A new report from Ofcom, the UK communications regulator, shows average broadband speeds across the country have increased by 64% in the past 12 months and more than doubled - from 7.6Mb to 14.7Mb - in the two years to May 2013.

Speeds in urban areas are now typically 26Mb, while households in more rural areas are stuck with just 9.9Mb on average - although many could only dream of such numbers and some don't have access to broadband at all.

The gap between average broadband speeds in urban and rural areas has widened from 9.5Mb in May 2011 to 16.5Mb in May 2013.

Dominic Baliszewski, telecoms expert at, said: "Although the superfast broadband roll-out is well underway, we still have a situation of broadband 'haves' and broadband 'have nots'.

"The figures comparing average download speeds across urban and rural areas make for uncomfortable reading."

The widening divide is the result of investment in superfast broadband, which initially was reserved for the most densely populated urban areas.

Meanwhile, rural folk with ADSL broadband - which travels down copper phone lines rather than fibre optic cable - typically get much slower speeds than they would in a town, as homes are usually much further from the local telephone exchange.

Traditional phone lines, which were never designed with broadband in mind, are prone to loss of speed the further a connection has to travel.

But research shows fast broadband is more important than ever, as households everywhere buy more and more gadgets - from smartphones and tablets to games consoles - that demand the kinds of speeds only those living in cities are guaranteed.

Claudio Pollack, Ofcom's consumer group director, said: "With the average household now owning more than three types of internet-connected device, consumers are demanding more than ever from their broadband.

"We are yet to see the full effect of government measures to improve broadband availability in rural areas, which should help to boost speeds."

The government has committed funds to improve rural broadband and has promised to reach 95% of UK premises with superfast broadband by 2017. It will also try to ensure that speeds of at least 2Mb are available to all.

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