Is it Time to Move Out of London?


Slow broadband speeds in rural areas could put off homeowners in London looking to swap life in the city for a more peaceful rural existence

An increasing number of London homeowners are taking the advice of BBC2 show Escape To The Country on board and swapping life in the city for a more peaceful rural existence.

Wimbledon estate agent Robert Holmes & Co reports that it has seen an increase in the number of homeowners cashing in on sharp rises in the value of property in London and moving to the countryside.

It is easy to understand why, says central London property business Plaza Estates. While London is a city that generates 22% of the UK’s GDP and has a wealth of history, cultural attractions, excellent transport links and world-leading universities, the countryside’s slower pace can provide a better quality of life.

Not only that, six-bed luxury homes with more than one acre of garden and close to pretty rural villages are available for less than the price of a two-bed flat in central London.

The factor that clinches the escape to the country for many Londoners is the fact that many social and leisure activities now take place online. This means it is no longer necessary to live within easy travel distance of friends and relations.

It is also argued that it is easier to form new friendships in rural communities because the lower number of residents often rely on each other for support and practical help.

With many professionals in London able to work remotely, rural homes two or three hours away from the capital’s business districts are attracting an increasing amount of attention.

However, the slower pace of life in the countryside extends to broadband speed, warns Eden Harper, an estate agent with branches in Brixton and Battersea.

A new study by the European Commission reveals high-speed broadband coverage in Slovenia, Lithuania and Cyprus outperforms services available in parts of the British countryside.

Europe’s Digital Progress Report found that just 45.9% of rural households in Britain had access to broadband speeds of 30Mpbs – the level that allows users to watch films online.

This level of high-speed rural broadband coverage is “substantially below” the national average of 88% and lower than the service offered to people living in former Communist states. In Slovenia, for example, 54.8% of households have access to broadband speeds of 30Mpbs, while that figure rises to 58.9% in Lithuania.

Compared with Western Europe, Britain’s 45.9% coverage looks even worse. Switzerland has 89% coverage, Belgium 84%, the Netherlands 97% and Luxembourg 98%. Malta tops the table with 100% coverage.

The report goes on to show that rural communities in the Britain also have some of the worst access to high-speed mobile internet connections.

Only 9.4% of residents in rural areas have access to long-term evolution coverage, the highest standard of mobile internet, compared with the EU average of 27%. This puts UK rural LTE mobile coverage behind Hungary (15%) and Romania (17%). 

Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged to deliver broadband coverage of speeds at or above 10Mbps to 95% of the country by 2020. But the majority of the 5% of the population who will miss out are farms and rural households, which will only be granted access to fast broadband “by request”.

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