Parfitt, Angela

Start date:
January 2013
Research Topic:
The return of the urban-rural divide? Broadband in rural Wales
Research pathway:
Research Supervisor:
Professor D. B. Clarke; Dr K. H. Halfacree
Supervising school:
Department of Geography,
Primary funding source:
ESRC Studentship

This research explores how rural Wales is being progressively disadvantaged by improved broadband provision and greater uptake elsewhere. Broadband supply is now predicted to reach 96 percent coverage in Wales by the end of 2015, with the remaining 4 percent representing approximately 90,000 homes primarily in rural areas. The urban-rural digital divide parallels traditional urban-rural divides and the nexus of rurality, socio-economic deprivation and digital exclusion indicates that access to broadband is an issue of economic, social and cultural importance.

Access to broadband allows interactivity between individuals, businesses and the external world, providing information, resources and access to services which are becoming increasingly, and sometimes exclusively available online. Consequently there are particular benefits associated with broadband connection for those in rural areas, given that this technology has the potential to overcome geographical and social isolation. However, these factors also constrain broadband diffusion. Previous studies have focused primarily on factors involved in technology acceptance and these are implicit within policy and Internet Service Providers’ strategies, which aim to increase broadband supply, demand and adoption.

I am particularly interested in exploring factors involved in demand and adoption, with specific focus on non-adoption in rural areas. Non-adopters include those with supply who do not subscribe, and those without supply who may or may not wish to access broadband. In-depth analysis of rural non-adopters has the potential to reveal factors and processes which are specifically related to non-adoption. Identification of these may reveal a typology of rural non-adopters whose characteristics and experiences can be better understood to influence broadband supply, demand and adoption in this context