Page last updated at 02:35 GMT, Saturday, 10 October 2009 03:35 UK

Prince in rural broadband warning

Prince Charles
Prince Charles is concerned about rural internet services

Rural businesses in "broadband deserts" are being denied vital internet services, Prince Charles has warned.

He said isolated towns and villages were placed at a "severe disadvantage" by being in the "internet's slow lane".

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, he said: "Too many rural households are currently unable to access the internet at satisfactory speeds."

Failing to invest in rural economies would be "vandalism on a grand scale", the Prince of Wales added.

He claimed that a lack of funding would also lead to the creation of "ghost communities".

He said: "The handicap this places on those rural businesses, schools, doctors' surgeries and local authorities, which inhabit these so-called 'broadband deserts', is immense.

"And, even more worryingly, many of those who are being left in the internet's 'slow lane' are the very same people who look after the countryside on our behalf - Britain's livestock farmers - and they are struggling as never before."

Broadband investment

Prince Charles also warned that many traditional rural businesses, particularly livestock and dairy farming, were facing shortfalls.

He said the number of dairy farms had dropped by 50% in the past 10 years and that 14 farmers a week were leaving the trade.

The prince launched a Rural Action Programme following the foot and mouth outbreak in 2001.

He said the group was now considering creating a fund to support isolated communities, and that improved access to broadband would play a major part in any investment.

"The church, the village school, the shops and pubs all depend on a local economy, the backbone of which is agriculture and the family farm," he said.

"Take all this away and we are left with ghost communities, populated by little more than second-home owners. Is that the countryside we want?

"Because unless we take action, that is where I am afraid we are heading."

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