I am "happy" to report that there is a number of financially disadvantaged people in the village I live in. We're a few miles from the M40, so not geographically rural, but we get a maximum of 500kbps downstream on ADSL and the exchange is not unbundled and regardless of what Virgin Media's marketing team think - we're not in their cable area. Only Vodaphone gives us any mobile signal - and that's poor (one bar) - so mobile broadband is out. Digital TV is not great either - it keeps dropping out.
The village is developing "social housing" and there are several sites in the village being considered by the parish council. You need a car to get anywhere which is expensive enough as it is (road charging would damage the ability for people to live here). The nearest farm shop is a mile and a half away and the nearest town is a few miles beyond that.
I think that believing that people living in the country are generally more affluent is a little naive. I also think that believing research that says that people believe that Internet access is as important as electricity is also naive.
I can see how it could help some of my older neighbours for online shopping with delivery - that's vital for them now we don't have local post offices or amenities. Also local government changes mean access to their web sites for support services is critical. As applications continue to appear online, then the digital divide will continue to get wider.
Many of the people living here, particularly the poorer ones, have been in the village for generations and are now tied to the area by bonds of caring for elderly relatives, or because they cannot afford to move. They live in ex-council houses now run by a Housing Association. Perhaps not the image of the affluent country-set imagined by some urbanites.
Because my local exchange will probably never be unbundled, I already pay £180 per year more than people in cities with access to "free" "up to 24Mbps" broadband - just to get 500kbps.
My lifestyle allows me to get by with that capacity and I can afford it. I'm not that bothered about IPTV and I don't stream content or use P2P applications. Lucky me.
To those people in the city complaining about subsidising connectivity improvements in rural areas, the money that I pay today is not being invested in new services for rural locations - it is going to subsidise the excellent service enjoyed by people in the cities. Thanks for your support.
I am happy to pay a bit more for my copper service to make sure that my poorer neighbours can get access to a reasonable suite of communication services. I think it will help prevent rural communities being increasingly seen as the sole preserve of the wealthy who are able to afford to drive and fend for themselves.