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Britain’s Prince Charles bemoans Internet ‘deserts’

Published on 10/10/2009

London - Britain's Prince Charles said Saturday that people living in rural areas had been left in the Internet's "slow lane", placing them at a "severe disadvantage" in the modern world.

The heir to the throne, who is outspoken on rural issues, warned that the online "broadband deserts" would turn into "ghost communities" if struggling businesses in the countryside could not get high-speed Internet access.

"Too many rural households are currently unable to access the Internet at satisfactory speeds," the 60-year-old wrote in The Daily Telegraph newspaper.

"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."

He said the number of dairy farms had declined by 50 percent in the past decade, and if people were to stay on the land, "they need all the help they can get".

"Denying them broadband, and effectively cutting them off from the Internet, will only be more likely to drive them off the hills and into the towns and cities."

The prince said it would be "disastrously short-sighted" if farming did not continue in rural areas.

He added: "It would be vandalism on a grand scale, akin to tearing down our historic cathedrals."

He called for the public and private sector to come together to find a solution to the broadband gap.

"The church, the village school, the shops and pubs all depend on a local economy.

"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."