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Insufficient broadband speeds are preventing around a million people in remote areas of the UK from engaging in "normal online activities", a new study indicates.

Entitled Two-Speed Britain: Rural Internet Use, the research was carried out by the Oxford Internet Institute with the dot.rural RCUK Digital Economy Research Hub at the University of Aberdeen, and illustrates the effect that not having access to high-speed broadband can have on some communities.

The study authors examined three types of internet user - deep rural (remote), shallow rural (less remote) and urban, and found that in urban areas less than five per cent of those sampled had an average broadband speed below 6.3Mbps.

In contrast, more than half of those situated in deep rural areas are capable of achieving even this speed.

According to the report, the discrepancy is most pronounced in upland areas of Scotland, Wales and England, but also in many areas in lowland rural Britain.

It affects some 1.3 million people in deep rural Britain, and 9.2 million people in so-called shallow rural areas.

Principal Investigator Dr Grant Blank, from the University of Oxford, said it is the first time data has clearly revealed the depth of the divide between those living in remote rural parts of Britain and the rest of the country.  

"The digital gap is not just due to age, income or education. We show that slower broadband speeds are barring many rural communities from engaging in the social or commercial online opportunities enjoyed by those in towns and cities," he added.

Lead Author Professor John Farrington, from the University of Aberdeen, said the gap between rural and urban areas will gradually narrow as superfast reaches more rural areas, but this will soon be offset by better-connected, mostly urban areas seeing speeds increase at a high rate.

He added: "This means faster areas will probably continue to get faster and faster, with slow speed areas left lagging behind."

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