Royal Agricultural University to lead evaluation of broadband in rural areas

The Royal Agricultural University is leading a two year evaluation of the impact of broadband across rural Gloucestershire and Herefordshire.

The deployment of Next Generation Access (NGA) broadband across the two counties is currently being rolled out by the ‘Fastershire’ project; one of four national pilots providing significant public subsidy to BT to deploy High Speed infrastructure in rural areas, with the aim of increasing NGA access to 90% of premises across both counties by 2016.

It is anticipated that the capital investment in the area will have a hugely significant impact on the sustainability of rural communities, leading to a range of social and economic benefits. The recognition of these benefits and associated challenges is pertinent, and of great interest to the RAU.

Since the advent of first generation broadband, a significant rural-urban divide has evolved. With the shift of many public and private services and markets online, it is important to understand and address the barriers to online engagement that still face some rural communities and businesses.

The evaluation will aim to explore five key areas of public spending, economic growth, society and culture, and health and wellbeing; generating a robust understanding of the impacts which will inform the national BDUK programme.

As a leading institution, the RAU has developed strong links with the environmental and agricultural industries including networks in the local area, particularly with Cirencester becoming a University town; and thus are dedicated to addressing such long standing and current rural issues.

To deliver this important evaluation, Professor Ali Parsa in the School of Real Estate and Land Management (RELM) at the RAU will lead the project, with key academics partnering up with the Countryside and Community Research Institute (CCRI), a specialist rural research centre based at the University of Gloucestershire.

The complementary specialisms offered by the partnership aim to strengthen the institutional relationship across the county, enabling effective, on-going rural research collaboration and business support to continue into the future.

For more information visit the Research and Consultancy pages of RAUs website.