This paper examines the relationship between rural dwellers and Internet technology and aims to understand how that relationship is altered with a significant increase in broadband speed. It presents an argument for using ‘resilience’ as a framework for such technological impact research, positing its potential usefulness for identifying alternative development narratives. Using interview data from 36 individuals in a study conducted with two rural community-based superfast broadband organisations in the UK, it identifies whether superfast broadband plays a role in enhancing rural community resilience. Anticipated outcomes are identified including an increased use of high-capacity services, specifically video services, and also the potential for making new patterns and habits of usage through alternative connection possibilities. Superfast access is equated to increased control over everyday actions, and the need for speed is positioned in relation to the reliability that speed provides for users. Finally, the Internet is perceived broadly as an individualised tool, one that can be accessed for personal skill building, empowerment and ultimately individual scale resilience. These findings highlight the complex, and at times contradictory nature of the relationship between superfast broadband, rural users and potential individual and community resilience. This paper concludes by identifying future research directions.
The authors would also like to thank colleagues at the University of Aberdeen and Scotland's Rural College for feedback and input throughout the early research process.
This work is supported by the University of Aberdeen College of Physical Sciences as well as the dot.rural Digital Economy Research Hub at the University of Aberdeen, award reference EP/G066051/1.
- rural geography
- superfast broadband
- community resilience
- broadband policy