/ Technology

The early bird catches the broadband

Working early

What’s your morning routine – a leisurely breakfast and a nice cup of freshly brewed coffee? Or do you make the most of the off peak broadband speeds to get your house or business in order? That’s the case for the locals living in Abererch, Gwynedd…

I’m sure we’ve all experienced the frustration of slow broadband – whether you’re paying your bills and checking your online banking or streaming your latest box set.

But getting up at 4am, because it’s the only time your broadband connection is reliable, to send emails and manage your business, just isn’t acceptable.

Access to superfast broadband

The broadband figures, revealed by the House of Commons, show seven of the top ten areas for the worst speeds in the UK are in Wales.

The government has recommended that the lowest acceptable download speed is 10Mbps, but Abererch was recorded as having a speed of just 2Mbps.

Liz Saville Roberts MP, for Dwyfor Meirionnydd, said:

‘These figures serve to reaffirm the disproportionate divide between those areas which are able to access superfast broadband and those rural communities struggling to achieve the Government’s own baseline download speed.’

However, BT Openreach said:

‘Contrary to reports – the village of Abererch has had access to the fastest available broadband speeds in the UK since June last year. A majority of premises have access to fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) technology– offering ultrafast speeds of up to 1Gbps, with further engineering work underway to connect up remaining properties.’

The reality of broadband speed

We are increasingly finding that the speeds promised by broadband providers are not always those experienced in reality. And this has become the motivation for our upcoming campaign – painting a true picture of broadband speeds across the UK and using that evidence to tackle the issue.

After successfully lobbying for misleading ‘up to’ advertising speeds to be changed over the last two years, we’re looking at what else can be done to tackle the frustration of poor speeds like those experienced by the people of Abererch, Gwynedd.

There will be more to come next week, but in the meantime, we thought you’d like a sneak preview of our new and improved speed checker and our new broadband speed complaint tool before we reveal all next week…

So, do you find your broadband sluggish? How do slower broadband speeds affect you?


1.2mbps here Bwlch exchange Powys . have been waiting 2years now for openreach to complete the fibre roll out . Over these 2years our village on Cabinet 2 Bwlch exchange has been given 5 completion dates and all have been missed . The latest one was for last 2weeks of March . Missed again . I even have our Assembly member on the case and she had an email reply from the area manager for BT and the new date he gives is early May seems they pull these completion dates out of a hat . What i have found out is that all the ground work has been completed , ducts cleared , new access points , fibre cable installed and a new cabinet but for some reason they are stalling on going live . is it because this part of fibre program Openreach/BT have o pay for out of their own funds and not the Government grant . Oh forgot to say i had email from Open Reach late October telling me GOOD NEWS orders will start to be taken from the begining of December . Openreach are stalling on the roll out as i believe that its all to do with who pays for it . Even though there is Government funding when openreach use up that funding on the ground work they are then not willing to pay for the final stages themselves and its NOT ON !!!!!!!

In Newport, Pembrokeshire we get surprisingly acceptable broadband, although we are less than a mile from the exchange. We pay more than in cities as it is Area 1, and the service is apparently “ADSL Max”. However, a year ago, SpeedTest.net started measuring the download speed at 14 Mbps – enough to watch catch-up TV at good definition (it used to be 6 Mbps) so something has been upgraded. I think Fibre is now available, but we find the current speed good enough for our requirements. On occasions things run slowly, though, as if there isn’t enough capacity to the exchange, but you can’t find out what is going on when we ask our supplier, Plusnet. But a reasonable experience overall, if not as fast as I’ve found when up in London.

The much derided and criticised TalkTalk broadband speed in my area of Pembrokeshire, West Wales, if my own personal experience of their service is to go by, has either improved beyond belief and reproach, or my use of several different speed test services has found them all to be faulty..! I recently (four months ago) upgraded to TalkTalk’s basic fibre optic feed and now am getting between 48 and 58mbps (my latest test taken with the Which? test provided with this article from a feeder link half-a-mile away from my home). I used to get between 10 and 15mpbs on the the old direct phoneline supply, and was satisfied with that, but with an offer of 18 months of fibre for virtually the same price I felt that I could not go wrong, and as I am using the subscription service of Adobe Photoshop the better speed is much appreciated. A feather in TalkTalk’s cap is that I have been a customer of Tiscali and then TalkTalk for many years and have never suffered the problems with the company that others seem to have…perhaps I have just been lucky..? Having lived in the extreme west of Wales for 13 years now – in the “sticks” so to speak – I think that to have been unlikely.

It seems our broadband isn’t fast enough to complete the Which? speed test! It showed latency of 923 ms the first time I tried and 3255 ms the second time – after that it says there’s an error, please try later! I have just made a BT wholesale broadband performance test, which shows: download 0.48 mbps; upload 0.13 mbps and ping latency 0.00. We have had b/band for the last ten years, but it was faster than this until a year ago, when we signed up for fibre – which proved impossible when the engineer came (we are too far from the cabinet) – it then took them seven weeks to re-connect us to the cable. It’s absolutely diabolical and BT’s service is dreadful.

Very slow broadband here in East Carmarthenshire / Dynefwr and appallingly expensive too. How about a refund BT? MJ Lloyd

Speak to ResQ in Cross Hands Morfydd – they may be able to help you.

In the Intro, Darren says that “Abererch was recorded as having a speed of just 2Mbps”. Further down, Openreach says “the village of Abererch has had access to the fastest available broadband speeds in the UK since June last year. A majority of premises have access to fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) technology– offering ultrafast speeds of up to 1Gbps”. Who is right? Is it the case that although access to superfast broadband is available people are not subscribing to it? I think this deserves some explanation.

The FTTP service is not currently available to everyone in Aberech, John.

I noted that, Wavechange, but the Which? statement generalises the deficiency while Openreach claims “a majority of premises have access to FTTP technology” and that work is underway [actually taking place at this moment?] to connect the remainder. Openreach should have been pressed to make a more accurate and credible statement.

I live in rural Carmarthenshire and when we moved here in 2004 our download speed was 28Kbps and upload was 3 Kbps! BT had sold this service to us as Broadband! They and Openreach showed absolutely no interest in providing us with anything better, so we eventually got together with a brilliant small IT firm in Cross Hands called ResQ, canvassed houses and farms in the area and formed Carmarthenshire Community Broadband Partnership. We were given grants from Carmarthenshire County Council and the Welsh Government and this enabled us to set up a wireless network which now caters for over 1000 rural households throughout South and West Wales. The service, which wasn’t totally without teething problems, is much more reliable than my BT phone line, which was once down for five months! Currently my SDSL broadband speed runs at between 12 and 20 Mbps. I think I’d still be waiting for any kind of broadband if I’d stuck with BT.

Judith Kelly says:
31 March 2017

I have spent the past three hours trying to use your tool to discover my broadband speed… message came up with ‘error, please try again later’ or ‘server not responding’ . Hard not to appreciate the irony. Have experienced better broadband in remote parts of South Africa and Namibia recently.

Sue Collier says:
31 March 2017

Swansea via Virgin Media at 20.12 (not sure where to submit results)
Response time (latency)
116 ms
Download speed
5.0 Mbps
Upload speed
2.5 Mbps

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Peter Johnson says:
1 April 2017

Our Broadband speed in Llanarth, Ceredigion on ADSL is OK (anything from 10 to 20 Mbs), but I live just about 200 yds from the exchange. Despite BT laying fibre down the main coast road we still can’t get access after more than a year of asking.

But my father in Bwlchllan, Ceredigion still has no broadband connection at all on his landline, despite BT being willing to charge him for it! He has to use an expensive 3G mobile dongle to get internet access.

I think BT is truly taking the p***. I would like to see BT having to pay significant compensation to households where they fail to provide the minimum standard of broadband speed. Hitting them in the pocket may spur them into action. The so called free market in telecoms is signally failing.

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BT have upgraded to fibre in many exchanges. The problem is that if you are more than 1500 metres (less than 1 mile) from your nearest upgraded cabinet there is no possibility of getting faster fibre broadband. We are 2 miles from our cabinet which has not been upgraded to fibre. Even were our cabinet upgraded there is no possibility of fibre for us.
We are in a rural area; but the problem is not restricted to rural areas.
Our speed is currently about 6mbps. which is very good for our area.

Gwyneth Peters says:

I live in a major urban area (Llandudno) my download speed at best is 3.4 mbps and my upload speed 1.0.
We are in a “black hole” as regards our mobile phone as there is ZERO reception in our house.

Living in rural Mid Wales near an exchange we can get excellent broadband speeds AT TIMES but the speed falls below that needed sensible site changes during ‘busy times’. Often inadequate for streaming Youtube. It is apparent that whilst ‘headline’ speeds are OK there is a lack of capacity on the lines which drmatically slow speeds at busy times.
I am told my provider EE is still being charged a premium for using the BT network.

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This is why it was right for Openreach to become isolated as a cable utility from BT as a telecom service provider. In all areas built-up before about 1990 there was generally a BT service passing all properties [Kingston upon Hull excepted]. From 1990 onwards cable TV made headway in town and city areas and eventually these operations amalgamated and became Virgin Media, but there is usually still a BT facility either underground or overhead, albeit mostly copper from the cabinet. As Duncan says, where VM have fibre to the premises [FTTP] that will invariably be an exclusive line and not useable for other telecom service providers [including broadband] but where there is a former BT, but now Openreach, line to the premises I presume that any other company will be allowed to use it subject to a charge. In some areas where there is a VM FTTP service as well as the original BT lines, many of which have been upgraded at least to the cabinet, VM are losing customers because BT’s fibre to the cabinet plus a short copper cable to the premises provides an adequate service especially if only telecoms + broadband are required. I don’t know how good BT’s television services are in those circumstances but they are marketing them heavily.

Lyn Maloney says:
1 April 2017

I’m with Plusnet and my Download speed is 1.2 Mbps. What could they do to improve this if I complained?

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Helen says:
1 April 2017

I live in a village in Monmouthshire where the broadband is intermittent and rarely execeeds 2 Mbs download speed. I can’t recall the nmbers of times I’ve called BT or whichever supplier I am trying out to come and see if they can do anything. I have various boosters and diversions to my phone set up to help (which they don’t) and it always results in the same statement. My broadband speed is apparently 3Mbs but I rarely see that and at certain times of the day it doesn’t work at all. I am self employed and find that the only way to use the internet reliably now is to hang around in coffee shops. In Monmouth the speed tends to be little better but at least it doesn’t continually drop out. Oh and I have a network printer. That’s fun too when it stops half way through a long print run and restarts messing up all the pages – even though I connect it with an ethernet cable. The joys of country life!

My Virgin Cable service is excellent but I am a little surprised by the Which? test – see comparison below:
Test using Speednet.com = download speed – 109.86Mbps; upload – 6.26.
Test using Which? facility = download speed – 63.4Mbps; upload – 9.44.

These tests are very different although done at the same time..I suggest Which/ check their test provider!

Even the slower test speed is adequate, surely?

We moved to Carmarthen in Feb.2015( Llanllawddog) we had no phone line at all, and no mobile signal either.
BT did not give a __________ and Open Reach are not fit for purpose. It took 7 months to get a phone line put in and this fails if we have any high winds. Our broad band speed is typlcaly 1.9 Mbps download and 0.6 upload.

I contacted our local MP Johnathan Edwards and he was very sympathetic and tried but got nowhere.
The truth is the government has no interest at all in rural communities or farming to produce food to feed the nation. Modern farms need communication as much as any other business if they are to succeed.

I am not a farmer but wanted to start a business in May 2015 but with no phone I had to postpone it, and now I have a phone line my broadband speed is to slow and unreliable to run a business, so I have had to abandon the idea. How many other s are in the same position. It is costing this country millions. And we are the laughing stock. Third world countrys have better communication. WHY? Brian Shepherd

I live on the edge of an urban area served by, amongst others, Virgin Media and have the benefit of a cable network service. I have been a customer of Virgin for many years and whilst they may not be the cheapest provider the broadband service is excellent. My basic package (TV, phone & broadband) has been upgraded on 3 occasions over the last 2 years or so from 30Mbps to 50, then 70 and now 100Mbps. I was however, surprised at the Which? test associated with this email because the results do not compare well with those from the independent test site “Speedtest.net” which I regularly use to check my service. Compare the following test results obtained on a Saturday at 1.30pm: Speedtest.net – download =109.86Mbps and upload = 6.26; Which? test – download = 63.4 & upload = 9.4. This seems very strange – which is the most reliable I wonder???

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I applaud you for reporting that, Duncan. I was never sure how illegal it was to use a domestic line for business purposes – it has always struck me as questionable. It’s the same with the small businesses that run office equipment and charge their ice cream vans from domestic electricity supplies in their homes. But if these rules were enforced it would put many small firms and traders out of business, which might not be what we want. Do BT check all the telephone numbers painted on trade vans to see if they are paying the correct tariff?

One of the original justifications for not allowing domestic telephone and electricity services for business purposes was to prevent, or at least restrict, the commercialisation of residential areas. Over the years, however, planning controls have been much more relaxed about it and even insurance policies now permit a small degree of business use of residential property. Home businesses that don’t generate traffic, parking, or callers, and only take up a small part of the house, are considered acceptable.

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I think the vast majority of small and home-office businesses are running on a domestic tariff, Duncan, despite BT’s efforts to stop it. I doubt if GCHQ etc are involved in the enforcement unless they are already investigating somebody. Even ‘white van’ traders have business cards, letterheads, estimate/quotation documents showing their landline telephone numbers.

The real question is why does there need to be any restriction on small businesses that are not contravening any planning regulations using their private home landlines [and electricity supplies]? It seems like an unnecessary hang-over from the nationalised industry days. After all, most things are charged for digitally on a volume basis now so the more use made of a line the more income it generates.

My speed here in Mid Wales, 12 miles from Aberystwyth is just 1. 6
Not much to shout about but what can you do ?

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