Price Boost In Fight For Rural Connectivity

As Campaigners Continue To Slam The UK Government, Direct Save Telecom is helping to bridge the ‘digital divide’ by offering the lowest priced ‘out of area’ broadband in the UK

Residential and business broadband customers living in Britain’s rural areas are being forced to pay more for their telecom services, even though they cannot receive speeds available to urban customers.

For around 15% of the population, superfast broadband and the headline prices that go with it are simply out of reach. Although government promises have been made that superfast and affordable broadband will be rolled out to all areas of the UK by 2015, fears are increasing that this will simply not be the case.

The majority of the UK’s broadband funding continues to be plunged into the built-up urban areas, with rural consumers being left further and further behind. If ‘out of area’ users want a faster connection their only option is satellite broadband, which according to broadbandchoices.co.uk “is expensive no matter what provider you use.”

Direct Save Telecom recognises this problem and is doing its utmost to give rural customers the best possible deal. Direct Save recently launched a recession busting broadband deal costing only £2.49 per month, with the problem being it can only be accessed by those of us who have ADSL2+ broadband available at their exchange. While this covers around 85% of the country, what happens to the other 15%?

To ease the plight of consumers in the digital divide, Direct Save has now introduced the lowest costing ‘out of area’ broadband in the UK. Rural customers can now get broadband, free set-up, a free wireless router and free evening and weekend calls for as little as £9.95 per month. This is far cheaper than their rivals. In fact, the closest comparison products to Direct Save is Sky’s £17, Plusnet’s £17.99, and Talk Talk’s £21.50 monthly deals.

Direct Save is also the cheapest for ‘out of area’ customers who do not want to sign up for a long-term contract. A 28 day rolling contract only costs £14.95, which again comes in cheaper than their nearest rivals.

Stavros Tsolakis, Direct Save’s CEO, explains that after considering the urban-rural divide problems for some time, Direct Save decided to try and help ‘out of area’ customers now rather than waiting for the introduction of new equipment at exchanges.

“We do not have much influence on when services to rural areas can be upgraded, but what we can do is have an influence on what is happening now by ensuring that rural areas are not hammered with ridiculously high prices.

“All our customers are important to us irrespective of where they live, and we want to try and give them the best possible telecoms deal available. This is one of the driving factors when setting our prices for rural areas, we are the lowest costing ‘out of area’ broadband provider in the UK.”

Tsolakis adds: “There has been talk of upgrading rural areas with the latest broadband technology for some time now, but it is incredibly slow paced which must be infuriating for the rural residential and business consumer. We have reduced our prices as much as we can to try and assist them now, and we will continue to do so until the broadband playing field is levelled.”

Less than 2% of the total funding for broadband in the UK is spent on superfast broadband in rural areas. This despite recent findings in a Farmers Weekly survey which found that not having a suitable broadband connection costs rural businesses approximately £1,288 per year, and that a good broadband connection could save them 29.8 hours a month, more than 4 working days.

Robyn Vinter, business reporter and director of Battling for Broadband campaign, Farmers Weekly, explains:

“The true scale of the rural broadband problem is not being recognised by the UK government. Time and time again we are seeing rural people quietly struggling by on little or no connection, while towns and cities are given more and more money to provide superfast and ultrafast networks.

“While only taken from a small sample, our rural broadband survey indicates that rural people are losing out in time and money without broadband and the government is doing little to help this.

“Things need to change to stop rural economies from stagnating and allow rural business to compete on a national and even global scale.”

Harry Cotterell, President of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), says the digital divide is very much in existence and that the key to closing it is ensuring that there is universal coverage that is both effective and affordable.

“The CLA would say that the digital divide is still very much in existence, irrespective of the Government’s strategy of trying to roll out superfast broadband. We are calling for the establishment of a Universal Service Obligation where there is a guarantee that all who live in rural areas have access to a benchmark of 2Mb/ps.

The disadvantages for not having a suitable broadband connection include the inability to trade on a competitive level with those businesses based in urban areas, a growing gap in social mobility, and the increasing lack of social interaction through the failure to connect. As far as the CLA is concerned, the key is ensuring that there is universal coverage that is effective and affordable.”

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