There’s a big divide in urban and rural broadband speeds. It only seems fair that broadband customers in rural areas shouldn’t have to pay more for a terrible service that never reaches advertised speeds
Picture this: you’ve paid £50 for six bottles of wine to be delivered to your home, and your friend two miles away has done the same. Your delivery arrives: it’s half a bottle rolling around in the box, while your friend has received six bottles.
The supplier argues that it specified ‘up to six’ and that it’s your fault for living too far from the depot. You feel cheated – you paid the same price as your friend, but got vastly different goods.
Rural vs urban
This is broadband every day, for those who live in the countryside. A typical home needs a minimum connection speed of 10 Mbps, according to the telecoms watchdog; but while 70% of UK urban customers enjoy this speed, only 20% of their country cousins have it. The rest must endure snails delivering data. This affects many areas of life – from damaging your business to being unable to watch catch-up TV because you’re waiting for your screen to catch up with itself.
One Which? Computing reader from Gwynedd, Wales, says she pays £34 a month for broadband and line rental and gets 0.7Mbps. Many things are virtually impossible for her, such as using Skype to talk to her grandchildren. She’s understandably frustrated to be paying more than some who have ‘superfast’ download speeds of 43Mbps – while she gets a shoddy service. Personally, I think companies should put just as much effort into giving people in rural areas a decent speed as they do into giving city dwellers superfast speeds that often exceed their needs.
For many, broadband feels almost as essential as electricity. People in rural areas not only feel duped by ads that promise ‘up to…’ speeds they never get, they’re also over a barrel because it seems that their only choice is to carry on paying the normal price for a terrible service.
Fed up with those ‘up to’ ads?
But there’s something to be done about the ads, at least. The absurd rules that allow broadband companies to advertise ‘up to…’ speeds if at least 10% of their customers can receive them should change, so that companies can only quote a speed that more than 50% of customers will be able to get. Which? is campaigning for this.
One of our researchers asked the four major broadband companies – BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media – what proportion of their customers actually get the maximum advertised ‘up to…’ speed. All four declined to answer. I suspect it would be too embarrassing.
Do live in a rural area and struggle with your broadband speed? Were you aware that the ‘up to’ ads only applied to 10% of customers?
[UPDATE: JUNE 11 2015] Read how the new Ofcom boss says she’ll improve services for you.