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Almost three-quarters of England's counties have broadband speeds that fall below the national average, new research has found.

According to the County Councils Network (CCN), broadband speeds in 72 per cent of counties are lower than the nationwide average download speed of 45Mbps.

Figures also showed that the average speeds in 27 per cent of counties fall below 30Mbps - the minimum level for Ofcom's definition of superfast broadband.

The issue appears to be particularly acute in rural areas, with broadband speeds in countryside locations up to three times slower than in neighbouring cities.

Philip Atkins, Leader of Staffordshire Council and Vice-Chairman of CCN, acknowledged that "significant steps forward" in boosting rural connectivity have been made in recent years.

Indeed, he said counties such as Staffordshire are working with local and national partners to connect hard-to-reach locations and improve broadband services.

However, Mr Atkins warned that the disparity between urban and rural areas means businesses in the countryside are "being left at a competitive disadvantage".

"It cannot be right that in some areas, businesses and residents in a city less than ten miles down the road from a rural county benefit from average download speeds of more than three times faster," he commented.

Mr Atkins pointed out that while the government has announced investment in this area, it remains a concern that digital infrastructure in counties "isn’t getting the attention it desperately needs". 

As a result, he believes the success of the government’s Industrial Strategy will heavily depend on making sure national productivity improves "in all four corners of the country post-Brexit".   "This means ensuring we invest in digital infrastructure," he said.

Figures from CCN showed that York has the highest average speed of 102.9Mbps. West Devon, meanwhile, has the lowest speed of 21.8Mbps.

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