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Fibre to the countryside: A comparison of public and community initiatives in the UK

Paolo Gerli and Jason Whalley

29th European Regional ITS Conference, Trento 2018 from International Telecommunications Society (ITS)

Abstract: Although digitisation offers multiple opportunities for rural areas, they still lag behind cities in terms of access and adoption of Internet-based services. This divide is the result of multiple market failures in both the demand and supply of broadband access, which have been addressed through public, private and community-led initiatives. Based on interviews and ethnographic analysis, this paper explores how a community network and a public-private partnership have contributed to promoting the delivery and adoption of superfast broadband in rural Cumbria, a county in the north of England. The case study analysis compares the outcomes of each model, highlighting their strengths and weaknesses. Although expanding the coverage of superfast broadband across the county, the publicprivate partnership did not solve the access divide afflicting the hardest to reach areas. Some of the latter were served by the community network, which relied on volunteers and demand aggregation to reduce the cost of fibre rollout. The scalability of this approach, however, has yet to be demonstrated. On the demand side, both initiatives achieved a high take-up proving that the rural 'adoption' divide has decreased over the years. Nevertheless, more needs to be done to ensure that rural communities and businesses are able to leverage the benefits deriving from superfast broadband.

Keywords: broadband; public initiatives; community initiatives; UK (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2018
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