Acres more broadband

What is not in doubt is the need. Since IT Pro first started covering the rural broadband issue, businesses have become increasingly frustrated at the "digital divide" between town and country.

As Nick Peart, an executive with technology company Zendesk, points out, local broadband only reaches 1Mbps and 512k at peak times. Those are the speeds city dwellers enjoyed a decade ago.

"As more services go online-only it is more important than ever for speeds to catch up it can take 12 hours to download an iPad update," he says.

This may well have less to do with public policy than market structures and economics. Even in urban areas, the vagaries of the telecoms and cable networks, as well as the challenge of negotiating with building owners, lead to fast broadband "not spots".

Dominic Baliszewski of, said: "Eeliable broadband access is essential for rural businesses to compete in the digital economy.

"The more digitally enabled a business is the faster it tends to grow particularly as in the UK we are twice as likely to buy goods online than on the high street," he added.

The EU's ruling removes one more barrier. It is not the end of the journey, but it is a start.

Stephen Pritchard is a contributing editor at IT Pro.