Rural broadband key to higher incomes

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The best hope on the horizon for rural areas to lift local wages to more competitive levels now appears to be the advent of new technology.

Planners are convinced the arrival of next-generation internet services into remote parts of the region can be the game-changer which finally brings highly-skilled, highly-paid jobs to rural areas such as Richmondshire, which have traditionally suffered from low pay.

“These modern technologies could make a huge difference over the coming years,” says James Farrar of North Yorkshire’s economic assessment unit. “I think somewhere like Richmondshire is very well placed to benefit.”

Next-generation internet, offering download speeds of 25Mbs and beyond – many times higher than the current UK average – is slowly being rolled out across the UK by firms such as BT and Virgin. North Yorkshire County Council was recently given £16m by the Government to install the new fibre-optic technology in rural parts of the county which otherwise might not have received coverage from large commercial firms.

Other rural parts of the region are also now bidding for money from Whitehall for similar schemes, and many hope to achieve 100 per cent coverage within a few short years.

The hope and expectation is that once the new technology becomes widespread, the new capabilities it brings such as high-quality video-conferencing and the high-speed sharing of large files will enable many more people to work from home and to set up businesses in remote areas.

“Absolutely the best prospect for us now is the money the county council has won for rural broadband,” says Coun John Blackie, leader of Richmondshire District Council.

“Fast broadband and the wonderful lifestyle we can offer in the Dales go hand-in-hand, in my opinion.

“Coupled together, I believe they can attract some of these footloose and fancy-free IT entrepreneurs to come and set up their businesses in our local area. Then at last we will begin to see high-quality jobs returning to Richmondshire.”