The digital divide: Patterns, policy and scenarios for connecting the ‘final few’ in rural communities across Great Britain

Lorna Philip* (Corresponding Author), Caitlin Cottrill, John Farrington, Fiona Williams, Fiona Ashmore

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

147 Citations (Scopus)
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The Internet can bestow significant benefits upon those who use it. The prima facie case for an urban-rural digital divide is widely acknowledged, but detailed accounts of the spatial patterns of digital communications infrastructure are rarely reported. In this paper we present original analysis of data published by the UK telecommunications regulator, Ofcom, and identify and reflect on the entrenched nature of the urban-rural digital divide in Great Britain. Drawing upon illustrative case vignettes we demonstrate the implications of digital exclusion for personal and business lives in rural, and in particular remote rural, areas. The ability of the current UK policy context to effectively address the urban-rural digital divide is reviewed and scenarios for improving digital connectivity amongst the ‘final few’, including community-led broadband, satellite broadband and mobile broadband, are considered. A call is made for digital future proofing in telecommunications policy, without which the already faster urban areas will get ‘faster, fastest’ leaving rural areas behind and an increasingly entrenched urban-rural divide.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)386-398
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Rural Studies
Early online date17 Jan 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2017

Bibliographical note

This paper reports research supported by an award made by the RCUK Digital Economy programme to the dot.rural Digital Economy Hub, award reference EP/G066051/1. The authors thank Claire Wallace for her permission to include extracts from interviews completed as part of her Communities and Culture Network+ project.


  • Urban-rural digital divide
  • digital exclusion
  • rural broadband
  • digital policy


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