A story which caught my eye last week was the CLA’s new report on the worst areas in rural Britain for 4G phone signal.
Rutand came out on top with descriptions like “digital wasteland” hitting the headlines. But what I'd like to know is, is it really such a bad thing?
According to the CLA's report, the worst local authorities in England for indoor 4G coverage from all providers, which have less than 20 per cent coverage, are:
1. Rutland – 3.42%
2. Ribble Valley – 6.37%
3. Maldon – 8.63%
4. South Norfolk – 10.64%
5. Breckland – 11.22%
6. Melton – 13.76%
7. Copeland – 14.13%
8. North Norfolk – 14.18%
9. North Dorset – 14.24%
10. Mid Devon – 14.25%
11. Richmondshire – 14.86%
12. Barrow in Furness – 15.79% (Classified as ‘Urban with Significant Rural’, all others in bottom 15 are ‘Mainly Rural or ‘Largely Rural’)
13. Staffordshire – 16.14%
14. Eden – 17.87%
15. North Devon – 19.11%
It's not a coincidence that the areas listed above are rural havens that are sought out by tourists who want a 'digital detox'. Digi detox breaks are growing increasingly popular as people try to switch off (literally) on holiday and reconnect with each other and nature...something that is getting harder and harder to do as we're growing ever more reliant on our tablets and phones to run businesses, communicate and keep in touch. I know I am.
But when we go on holiday to Norfolk every year, I know I'm not going to get a good signal so I find I don't check my phone for hours on end. And do you know what? It's liberating.
Funnily enough, the front of the Rutland and Stamford Mercury this week highlights what a great area we are for rural broadband, meaning Rutland is becoming a bit of a hot spot for rural start-ups *waves*.
So, with tourism in mind, is 4G really that important to residents and visitors to the county? It's worth pointing out that we've been getting by on 3G for years. More data isn't going to change our lives dramatically.
As I type this on my phone in deepest, darkest Rutland, I don't even have 3G, let alone four to boast about. But it’s not impacting my ability to run my business or communicate.
However, when I leave the house or go for a walk I know I’ll likely hit patches where I have no phone signal at all. And I welcome it. I don't need 4G.
Yes, I do understand that it’s not ideal for people who work remotely. One of the amazing things about mobile phones is the security they bring. If we have an accident we can call for help, or if we’re lost we can find our way home. But to reiterate the point, most of Rutland has a mobile signal. Just not a 4G one.
So come on Ribble Valley, Norfolk, Devon and the rest of England's 'digital wastelands', let's embrace our antisocial media status and celebrate it.