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Broadband for all: Rural Britain told to keep on waiting

"It used to be an accepted fact of life that living in the city was more expensive but living in the sticks has services drawbacks..."
Written by Will Sturgeon, Contributor

"It used to be an accepted fact of life that living in the city was more expensive but living in the sticks has services drawbacks..."

It appears the rural broadband debate is set to run and run. After mentioning it in the Weekly Round-Up, the silicon.com virtual mailbag was inundated with angry responses - for and against the idea of 'broadband for all'. While the majority of respondents believe rural areas should be entitled to broadband - whether it has to be subsidised or not - there were still a number of readers who believe differing levels of service come with the territory, and rural have-nots should come to terms with the fact that if they want broadband then they should have to pay for alternatives other than the urban-friendly ADSL. Tomorrow we will bring you the other side of the story but, for today, here are those who think rural broadband should not be considered a basic right. silicon.com reader Chris Grey wrote in to say: "I think that it is a valid point to say that rural dwellers should expect to pay more for their services. This isn't new. It isn't restricted to broadband. It used to be an accepted fact of life that living in the city was more expensive but living in the sticks has services drawbacks. So why does broadband suddenly qualify for a different status than popping to the supermarket or not?" Nick Barrance, another silicon.com reader, echoed a point made by a number of others, suggesting rural activists are asking things of city-dwellers and London's legislators only when it suits them, though his remarks are likely to prove unpopular with many. "If rural people are allowed broadband, does that mean townies can have a say over fox hunting?" he asked - we presume slightly tongue in cheek. However, others were quick to point out that the inherent differences between rural and urban areas are just the pros and cons of any way of life. Others said they would gladly swap their high-speed internet access for clean air, lower house prices and less congestion, litter and crime. Similarly, silicon.com reader Antony Norris suggested that living in cities is just a natural downside of having access to services such as broadband. "I'd love to live somewhere where there isn't constant filth, noise, crime, pollution, traffic jams and of course overpriced beer but I can't for many reasons. Broadband is one of them," he wrote. "The country 'folk' just need to put up with it until some advancement will bring broadband to them, probably the spread of the cities, but they wouldn't go for that would they." And in truth, this may just represent a solution. Make rural areas more like cities by increasing the population density, suggests silicon.com reader Charles - who like Madonna appears to favour going by the one name. "Living outside major urban areas often means commuting into an urban area without contributing to its cost. Now expecting even more subsidies by the urban population, this time on communications, seems a bit over the top. Yes, it costs a lot more to supply low density populations whether it's post, water, electricity or broadband. Maybe the rural dwellers, instead of having to move into the city, need more houses built locally to meet our housing needs and give them the density to make broadband viable." And amid all this there were even some words in defence of BT - which is often still expected to roll out services at a loss, despite the 1980s privatisation of the former state-run telco. silicon.com reader Mike Clinch wrote: "Poor old BT. People still think it offers a service as in the past. Why is it so conveniently forgotten that BT is a company trading in telecommunications to make a profit for its shareholders?" Tomorrow: why broadband shouldn't just be for cities. In the meantime, continue to send your feedback to this mailbox.
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