Outdoor accommodation specialist Pitchup.com is demanding better broadband for rural businesses rather than HS2.
The vast majority of UK campsites and parks are in rural areas, accounting for £2.5bn of domestic spend each year and providing vital jobs and income. Connectivity directly affects commercial viability and Pitchup.com founder Dan Yates believes that around £1bn of public money for broadband is simply not enough compared to other infrastructure projects like HS2, which will cost £43bn.
“With 62% of adults now owning a smartphone and nearly 30% of adults using a tablet to go online, consumers are way ahead of our national infrastructure. They want to use the internet and mobile devices, but they’re hindered because of poor fixed-line and mobile connectivity,” said Yates.
According to Ofcom statistics, the gap between average rural and urban download speeds has grown by 119% between May 2011 and November 2013, from 9Mbps to 21Mbps.
“The slow pace of broadband development in the UK, and specifically in the countryside, is a huge problem for our accommodation partners. Rural areas are increasingly being left behind as connectivity ramps up in towns and cities,” says Yates.
Mobile internet may not be an option, either, since 3G is not available for 22.9% of the UK’s land area, according to Ofcom.
“WiFi on holiday is now the top requirement for many customers. More needs to be done for rural broadband before the gap between UK urban and rural speeds widens and the UK falls even further behind other countries.”
Pitchup.com’s own statistics on campsites and parks with WiFi show the average rating for WiFi is 2.6 out of 10, based on more than 1,300 customer reviews.
WiFi is best in west Wales, at 4.6 out of 10, and poorest in the south east at 2.9 out of 5. The top county is Ceredigion with 4.5 out of 10, and the worst Hampshire, scoring only 1.6 out of 10.
A key problem, according to Yates, is the UK’s lack of full fibre optic broadband, with the UK failing to reach the podium of the leading nations with fibre-to-the-premises technology.
“Not only is the roll out of fibre broadband happening too slowly, but the UK will remain in the slow lane because BT Infinity still relies on copper between the cabinet and the premises, whereas countries overseas are installing full fibre throughout,” said Yates.
“It is incredibly frustrating to see only £1bn of subsidy devoted to internet infrastructure when the proposed HS2 high-speed rail link will cost £43bn,” said Yates. “Better internet connections will boost Britain’s economy far more than a rail link that will mainly benefit big cities.”
“As the leading e-commerce nation in the world, government should be doing everything in its power to capitalise upon the UK’s position in this booming sector.”