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How we’re rescuing rural communities from digital poverty

At Quickline we’re on a mission to reach places other internet service providers leave behind. Here, our CEO Sean Royce explains how we’re closing the digital divide by bringing fast and reliable broadband to rural communities.

It’s known as God’s Own Country for good reason. If you stop locals in the street and ask what they love about Yorkshire, the beautiful countryside is sure to be mentioned.

From the rolling Yorkshire Dales, Moors and Wolds, to the valleys of Calderdale and the rugged coastline, Yorkshire boasts so much stunning scenery.

But, with all this natural beauty, comes challenges. Large parts of Yorkshire, and other rural communities we serve, such as in Lincolnshire, are unspoilt simply because they’re so remote.

Take North Yorkshire, for example. According to the North Yorkshire Rural Commission, 85 per cent of the area is classed as “super sparse” or very rural.

How then do we ensure people in the most outlying communities enjoy the same levels of digital connectivity as those in towns and cities?

As a broadband provider dedicated to serving rural areas, we have invested in a market-leading hybrid network, using both full fibre and 5G wireless technology to provide rock-solid, reliable internet access without compromising on speed or quality.

Transforming life, work and social opportunities

Recently we have been awarded two contracts under the Government’s flagship Project Gigabit programme, designed to bring rural communities out of broadband poverty.

These contracts cover huge swathes of rural Yorkshire, and surrounding areas, and represent more than £100m of Government investment to reach over 60,000 homes and businesses with fast, reliable, full fibre broadband.

We’re also funding fibre connections to a further 90,000 premises on a purely commercial basis, so the impact across Yorkshire and neighbouring areas is enormous.

We’re proud that the Government is trusting us to transform the online experience and provide life, work and social opportunities for people in many of Yorkshire’s most isolated places.

Investing to generate rural growth

The Centre for Economics and Business Research has calculated that investing to deliver fast, reliable broadband to remote communities will generate up to £65 billion of economic growth across the country. So the £5 billion Project Gigabit programme is obviously money very well spent.

Quickline Fibre Engineer Mark Palmer installing FTTP in rural Lincolnshire

That investment could boost employment in these areas by almost seven per cent, creating more than 250,000 jobs.

The challenge lies in unlocking these massive economic benefits. That’s why Project Gigabit is so vital to the UK’s prosperity and particularly to places like Yorkshire which have so many deep rural communities.

Quite simply, it is logistically and financially challenging to connect some of the hardest-to-reach communities.

It can often cost many thousands of pounds to connect the most remote home or business to fibre broadband.

That’s a commitment most broadband providers are unwilling to make, opting instead to build networks in towns and cities where people already have choice of service.

Much more than a broadband provider

At Quickline, we have a very different approach. We believe we’re unique as a regionally focused, rural broadband provider which exists to bring people in remote communities out of the internet dark ages.

4 July 2023: Visit by Ron Dearing UTC students to the Quickline Training Centre in Hull. Oliver Lee of Quickline with (l-r) ,Jack Shephard, Billy Taylor, Scarlet Wedgner and Sam Fewlass. Picture: Sean Spencer/Hull News & Pictures Ltd 01482 210267/07976 433960 www.hullnews.co.uk sean@hullnews.co.uk

As a company based in Yorkshire, our commitment to these communities also stretches far beyond the fibre cables we install.

Through our Q Futures programme, we’re investing £3 million over the next three years in initiatives ranging from apprenticeships and training courses to community grant schemes and digital literacy programmes, all helping to sustain communities and create a rural workforce of the future.

Sustaining isolated villages and hamlets

We recognise that the sustainability of many deep rural communities is under threat, in part because of their lack of digital connectivity.

Outlying villages and hamlets don’t have shops, banks, libraries, or sometimes any form of physical community facility or service, including health and social care services. They are also isolated by infrequent or non-existent public transport.

The services people need are often available online, but rural communities require reliable and rapid access to connect with the outside world.

That’s why Project Gigabit exists and why the Government has set a target to provide 85% of UK premises with gigabit-capable broadband by the end of 2025.

We fully support Project Gigabit. It enables broadband providers such as us to connect communities that would otherwise not be commercially viable to reach.

Connecting people to a world of possibilities

Rolling out our full fibre network into these communities really will change lives, but our commitment to bridging the broadband gap doesn’t stop there.

28 September 2023: Quickline Community Staff at Barnetby Le Wold, Lincolnshire. (l-r) Sarah Lilleyman-Hall (Events Manager), Helen Milner (Community Engagement Executive), and Kai Greening (Community Executive). Picture: Sean Spencer/Hull News & Pictures Ltd 01482 210267/07976 433960 www.hullnews.co.uk sean@hullnews.co.uk

We also see our 5G wireless technology playing a vital part in serving those even harder to reach places. Using masts to beam reliable and very fast broadband to homes and businesses is a great solution for those places truly isolated from existing infrastructure.

We have connected many communities in this way and see the combination of full fibre and 5G fixed wireless as the solution to the digital disparity blighting the remotest communities.

I’m extremely proud to lead one of the UK’s fastest-growing broadband providers and of how we’re improving people’s lives in rural areas.

At Quickline, we’re on a mission to ensure rural communities across Yorkshire and beyond are connected to the world of possibilities that rapid, reliable broadband opens up.

  • A version of this article first appeared in the Yorkshire Post.

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