Superfast broadband is getting a step closer, to all of us. While roll-out has been quick in towns and cities across the UK, many rural communities have lagged behind. It isn’t great, having a two-tier digital economy, especially when much of the SME sector that relies on the digital network is the exact same one the government is looking to help the UK restore a healthy economic balance.
However that looks set to change.
The European Union has taken the first step in approving a funding programme set to help broadband expand to rural towns and villages. The decision is set to come in the next few weeks and it will allow councils to start building the infrastructure and reaching more homes. The price tag, the government says, is £350 million.
To see the difference that will make we only have to look at the burgeoning small and medium business sector in towns and cities who have been able to grow by relying on cheap broadband and mobile technology.
So what difference does it make?
At the most basic level, it means both at home and in the office the broadband connection is faster. That means it’s easier to stream videos, to load up websites and what-not. There’s also another part of it.
Faster internet connection has led to the rapid growth of mobile and cloud technology. This month the first 4G network launched in the UK. To consider the impact that will have, wind the clock back a few years to the advent of 3G.
Without 3G you wouldn’t have the iPhone 3Gs, or the Samsung Galaxy S2 – widely regarded by many as the best smartphone there is. You wouldn’t have mobile devices like tablets. It wouldn’t be so easy to connect laptops and netbooks wherever you need to use them. Mobile technology has meant having a calendar, hosted email or access to documents in our hand held devices, be their mobiles or tablets.
That shift in technology paved the way for a change in work patterns. The move to mobile meant people no longer had to work in front of a laptop or PC to stay connected. They could still offer the same level of communication and input while they were travelling, coming out of a sales meeting or working from home. The flexibility has freed up business, helping them look for more avenues of growth and expansion.
So how does that relate to rural broadband? Faster internet connections across the country will mean that growth is not just restricted to towns and cities. If every town and village in the UK has the same kind of access to mobile technology then they are able to work and develop their business in a way that suits them.
Faster connections are not just about mobile. They mean more accessibility; taking advantage of cloud technology, making connections with clients around the world; if more of the country is digitally mature then it can only help the country’s business community.