/ Technology

Your universal right to broadband, even in rural areas

Broadband on country lane

Are you in a rural area still waiting for decent broadband? You may be in luck. The Government has announced plans to put broadband access on a similar footing to essential services, like water and electricity.

The Government plans to introduce a new universal service obligation for broadband. This’ll give you the legal right to request an ‘affordable’ connection to broadband with speeds of at least 10Mbps. And that’s no matter where you live.

So if you’re in one of the unlucky two million homes that doesn’t have access to the net, you’ll be able to demand a decent broadband connection.

At the announcement, Prime Minister David Cameron said:

‘Access to the internet shouldn’t be a luxury; it should be a right – absolutely fundamental to life in 21st century Britain. That is why I’m announcing a giant leap in my digital mission for Britain.

‘Just as our forebears effectively brought gas, electricity and water to all, we’re going to bring fast broadband to every home and business that wants it.’

Broadband speeds in rural areas

It’s a big claim and one that should be good news for Which? Convo commenter David Mitchell, who told us last week:

‘I live in rural Suffolk and have struggled for years with a broadband download speed of around 1mbs. Upload sometimes dwindled to Zero. The county council has a contract with BT to upgrade this ‘uneconomic’ area with the help of government cash but progress is glacially slow and the latest timetable is for us to get a speed of 2mbps by the end of 2017.’

We’ll be keeping an eye out for more news on the universal service obligation and what it will mean for people without access. There will also no doubt be questions about the cost of reaching 10mbps countrywide and who will pay. Whatever the case, it will be important that the cost is transparent and doesn’t spiral out of control.

Are you struggling to get speeds anywhere close to 10Mbps? Are you pleased to see the Government take this issue seriously? As soon as we know more about when you’ll be able to exercise your new rights, we’ll let you know.

Useful links

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hugo says:
1 February 2016

If you choose till live in a rural area with all its advantages – you have to take the rough with the smooth. Mobile technology will eventually sort out this problem though.

Been told that fast broadband is coming to our rural area any time now (& saw all the cabling going in over the last months) but when I check, my provider (BT) says it won’t be available for me. This is presumably because I live a mile up a lane from the nearest village – so “rural broadband” doesn’t really mean what it says, does it?

Sadly not for you Sandra if you have miles of copper from the cabinet , I cant even suggest getting together with others as you dont live in a village as some villages have got together and paid for fibre to be installed or have installed radio internet . I wont mention illegal methods . AS far as “waiting for mobile technology ” this still wont work with those too far from the transmitting /receiving pylon .

I’d like a mobile phone signal ! too

The signals all around the Isle of Anglesey are crap, have to travel miles to get a signal in some places.

Mobile phone signals here have always been just a dream, but, ten years ago when the internet connection in this area moved from dial-up to broadband I was getting up to nine megs broadband download speed and an average around seven megs. This has got worse and worse and worse and is currently running around half a meg. Superfast Cymru, the roll out of ‘fast’ fibre-optic in Wales is just being connected in this immediate area and households are now being encouraged to upgrade to a new, superfast fibre-optic broadband service. Sadly the quoted parameters for this new ‘superfast’ fibre-optic broadband service here in North Monmouthshire are two to five megs download speeds. So, after ten years and two major technology upgrades, we may, if we are very lucky, get a service that is almost half as good as the service we were getting in 2006. Progress, don’t you just love it?

John Your comment is interesting , you are saying you were on copper with an original download speed of around 7 megs and it got worse and worse until you are down to half a meg . This is down to an increase in the uptake of broadband users in your area . What happens is that the broadband signals overlap with each other in copper easily ,this produces noise ,the noise in DB ,the same as you get in a hi-fi amplifier , degrades the broadband signal slowing it down so over time your speed reduces . Introducing FTTC means the cabinet is the equivalent of the exchange so we are then talking of the distance you are from the cabinet . It sounds like you are a couple of miles or more from it, even though fibre is a big improvement it is still liable to interaction from other broadband users if the cable is full or nearly so , not to the same extent as copper but never the less there is a drop when congested this will be most noticeable to those who use broadband at peak congestion times where even those with very fast broadband -say 70/80 megs will experience a drop . But at that speed a drop of 10megs doesnt matter , but to those already on a low speed it will. This is basically without going into science the reason in your case .

My speed with BT Broadband varies from 0.35 to 2 megabits per second here in North East Fife. I have written to BT, OFCOM, my Member of the Scottish Parliament, the Fife Broadband Officer and the local newspaper (The Courier) about this – but nothing ever seems to improve. We are not miles out in the Highlands, but about 4 miles from the local exchange in Tayport, but in a rural area. Yet I am paying the same as people in cities receiving very much faster speeds. Action is really needed.

The Government has something of a moral duty to provide full broadband services to rural areas. They obviously consider those living in such areas worthy of paying their share of council tax and income tax, so why have we to settle for second best in other areas?

Why can’t mobile masts be like electricy, gas or phone lines. All companies use them but you get the chance to choose which supplier you want.

I can walk out my door turn left and I can see all the masts about 1.5m away………………….It is high ground and adjacent to a underground reservoir…………………….I know one of the main contractors who install the masts and I am reliably told that there is not a provider that is not catered for on that hill top and it looks like it
Can I get a signal,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,just………….sometimes………………………My wife does get great 4G at the same time as I cannot get a phone call……………I can stand perfectly still and in a few minutes I get 5 bars………………minutes later back to rubbish…………..I think these things are getting a little choosey about how they service………………..I’m paying £12 per month and it looks like we who are not into all this current high tech stuff are getting a lot less than our £12 worth

Dee if we eliminate weather -obstruction – interference – and you can see the masts then in theory cell- phones are essentially radios communicating and receiving from the tower .A carriers coverage is a network of cell sites ,each with a base station controller for a range of 10 miles but is limited by the number of users on that tower also signal output from the tower is much greater than that of your phone . It is easier for your phone to hear the tower than it is for the tower to hear your phone . Your phone can output -0.2to 0.6 watts the tower can output 3 watts . That is why you may see a signal strength of up to 5 bars on your phone but still not connect to carry on a conversation . Phone makers had to come up with a compromise -long battery life OR short battery life with a 1 or 2 watt transmission signal ,they opted for long battery life . .The tower may not be the correct height or pointed in your direction , its possible the technician has mis-aligned the transmission signal direction unintentionally BUT he may have aligned it to suite the area of most users .. Want a bigger signal then there are boosters and hi-power cell-net phones but they use more battery power (shorter life ) . Just think walki-talkies bigger aerial/ transmitter/battery longer range.

Duncan Thanks
Yes we have line of sight……………..We’re also high as are the masts and being high we are more often than not above fog…………..but weather does not seem to be the problem as I’ve been watching trying to figure out the why’s and wherefores…………..

I know there are a lot of anomalies but like the land line and internet I think a lot has to do with how much data is being passed at a given time………………as we are not near big town but are out in the sticks I notice the worst morning of the week for internet connection is Saturday……………..So I’m regularly seeing that all my little 2nd and 3rd cousins are causing this by nearly everyone have a device and having fun plus there are several times that amount I never see that I can only assume are the same
My wifes smart phone does things I dont need and her battery lasts at least 5 minutes,,,,,,,,,,,,Near every time I see the phone its on charge…………..I even had to put her 2x12v sockets in the passenger side of the motorhome just to keep her phone and ipad up………….the phone being the biggest offender
Am I correct in assuming that the mobiles phones being digital transmit/receive 0s and 1s whether it be speech/text or data………………..That being the case my wife’s phone from she gets up is operating at 100s if not many 1000s of times my 0s and 1s……………My wife is not alone although she is in that bunch that have to know what everyone is doing and she’ll send and receive more pictures and video clips in a some days than I take all year.
Maybe I’m comparing things wrong here
On Saturday mornings as I’ve said before I can open the laptop up, sign in and once the screen is up it can and regularly and does take the time it takes to make my breakfast to get my emails on the screen and get Which Recent activity refreshed etc……………….Other mornings are not so bad with some at least as fast townsfolk dial up was………………This morning is good,,,,,BBC news about 1 sec,,,,,,,,,,MET Office weather with little picture/map/icon thingy about 3 sec’s and so on………
While I keep loading stuff I’ll do fine but I have to read the stuff and when I do the next item will be slow…………..occasionally near stopped……………I’ll admit to having tried doing all sorts of things to try and get going again………………Hitting F5 several times seems to work or maybe its in my head………….
My mobile seems to be similar in that if its good enough to take a call I seldom get cut off or loose the call except for one particular area of our old stone house and even TVs were effected near that wall……………………You know what I’m talking about I’m sure
If I wish to make a call all I have to do is move to I get the call started and we’re up and running
Maybe I’m wrong but in my minds eye both the internet and the phone seem to be okay once you have grabbed your slice and keep holding it………………….The worst bits are getting hold of it
Not so much a problem when making calls but I’m receiving voicemail texts and calling the caller back before they get their car started the timing is so close………………………I have even walked back along the same steps where my phone apparently was not getting signal while talking without problem
I may be wrong again but the advent of smart phones seems to have coincided with this terrible service……………….Once upon a year there was not a square foot of this place apart from that wall where one couldn’t take/receive anything via mobile………………..I used to never receive voicemails because I could answer the call
I once worked nearby the airport………..some years ago it was a brill place to have a mobile but again today is rubbish with my former boss complaining similar to myself and that is one of the most expensive areas of rural property here with a high density of housing for rural…………..Almost like parts of England………………International Airports draw the usual crowd
Yes big aerials,,,,,,,,bring them back……………..I dont care if they’re old fashioned looking…….so am I

Your thinking is right Dee each tower can only deal with a certain amount of traffic many people are under the impression that each tower can cover any amount of data intake/outgoing but its not the case as you found out on Saturdays . The same applies to the internet via a landline peak periods speed drops okay if you have high speed to begin with ,not okay if you only have a few mps .

John F says:
3 February 2016

When is this so called high speed rural broadband going to happen I wonder? I live in very rural Northern Ireland and the speed I get – if I’m lucky – is just over 1.5MB/sec. Not only that but my service has been down several times since I moved over here in February 2014. I don’t even know if my broadband service is ever going to be FTTC.

Hello John – if you are now living in NI then click on – nibroadband.com where you can click on = check availability — can you get it — order–or cant get it . You should be able to get an idea if -FTTC is being installed in your area ,if not get back.

Duncan and John,,,,,,,,,
Maybe I better throw my lot in here
If I put my number into nibroadband.com it comes up as taking orders from fibre annd has done for some time but if I look at the map they have me 2 miles from reality……….
If I put in my postcode I get the address option and when I click on our road and number it goes back to the supposed phone number location…………….This is not strange for here………………Come to think of it nothing is strange for here
So be careful and look at the little map thingy and make sure you really are where the suggest/think you are…………

An awful pity the bill hadnt got as bad a navigation system

Thats funny Dee I thought it was only relevant to Northern Ireland ,I will check it out .

Checked this out Dee ,it got my address and landline route and info right on the money I can only presume Northern Ireland and the UK are both off the same outreach website otherwise it would only give NI addresses.

I’d think they share the same website and info,,,,,,,,,,,,,we know its definitely not everywhere here but there are certainly some address’s that are a mess…………….
Maybe its better to not include the ones that’ll not stand a cat in h*** chance……..
Former boss was here the other day and he knows his way around one of these smart phones and he and I done a little experiment with this laptop and his phone just outside the door……….
If it were not the cost his 4G was running rings around our landline…………..

Okay John got another URL which this time is totally relevant to NI . Its- fasterbroadbandni.com – This website is particular to NI and you can input the NI county from a drop down list ,on clicking it you have a long list of roads /addresses in that county that have fibre (FTTC ) to them .

No mobile signal, where I live, so that option is not available, broadband is 2g if lucky, struggle to watch anything but basic work on my pc, home line went down prior to Christmas, took BT 64 days to fix it, compensation, £50.00 refused to give me anymore.

just to add in my two penny worth. Living in central London we also have a very poor broadband service. On an exchange only line & when they cabled our road NTL only did one side & guess which side missed out, mine. The whole fibre optic installation has been a fiasco since the 1990’s.

Keith -here is BT,s contract policy as regards /line disconnection (taken from BT care forum ) =Compensation or customer service guarantee (CSGS) is standard and is only paid when commitment has been exceeded . If a fault has been reported on a Monday the commitment is by the end of Wednesday-ie- CSGS starts on Thursday actual financial loss can also be claimed once the fault has exceeded the commitment . This is for you to be reimbursed for costs due to the delay in repair . As BT DOESNT guarantee a fault free service CSGS is paid for the delay in repair -NOT the fault ,generally a daily RENTAL credit wich is how much you pay PER DAY for the line . Good will is outside these terms and accepting it prevents you from claiming under AFL . So Keith you calculate your loss in line rental excluding the first 3 days that would be approx 60 days then ,how does that tie up ? .If you go to BT,s CARE Forum you can get advice or get your case taken up by a Moderator who is an exec. in BT employ.

I don’t like Which’s Zoe Lederman’s phrase, “EVEN in rural areas”. In Norway for at least 2 generations, anyone building a holiday hut anywhere in the country has had the right to an electricity supply. Despite their mountainous terrain, their mobile ‘phones receive a signal in rural areas which in Britain would receive none. How much easier to provide a broadband connection to homes and businesses in this country, wherever they are.

John VERY interesting as regards Norway,s coverage and your right Norway is way ahead of everybody else in the EU . What stands out that is different from the UK is that in partnership the Norwegian government is supplying Satellite broadband that is helped with government grants ,also large scale WIRELESS broadband is being used because of mountainous regions again with government help . Eutelsat (very large SAT company ) is their partner as is Tooway consumer broadband service consisting of a small sat dish and modem without the need of a telephone line . Also broadband is being delivered via cable TV as in the States . They are using a wide range of options ,unlike the UK but we are talking government money ,which Norway has built up a fortune from OIL and BANKED it for future use ,unlike here.

I found that very interesting…………….

Cameron’s announcement, I think, applies to rural England & not rural Wales. Here on Anglesey the village I live near has a cabinet, which is connected to the Beaumaris exchange. Unfortunately we and other houses out of the village, inc. a school are connected to the Menai Bridge exchange. Menai Bridge has had fibre installed, & we keep being promised over the past 18 months by BT superfast fibre is coming soon, but it never happens. And of course BT have been given a shedload of money by the Welsh Govt. to provide superfast broadband. Our normal speed is between 0.5 and 1.5 mbps. (V difficult sometimes just to download text emails.) That speed is when we have a service, which is very poor. Today we just got our broadband back (and our landline) after it had been out for 5 whole weeks. The same fault affected 4 other households. Wherever I go on Anglesey, I hear lots of stories from individuals and businesses about slow speeds, poor service, etc. No wonder Anglesey’s economy is amongst the poorest in the UK. Yes, it should be treated as a utility and there should be a universal right to broadband, inc rural areas, if only on the grounds that all major institutions, inc. public bodies, companies, and of course the UK government are forcing individuals to interact with them via the internet.

Paul did you know the amswer to your own question ,as hinted in your last sentence ? According to your local newspaper -front page what is holding up high speed fibre – is land permissions -Quote- Big companies and overseas landlords are blocking communities superfast broadband , a top Welsh Government official claims . Engineers need to install 3,000 cabinets on highways and private land across Wales to run kilometres of copper cabling and lay fibre poles for high speed internet access BUT some private landowners are preventing homes ,businesses and even villages from gaining it by delaying or refusing to give permission for BT engineers to access the sites. Simon Jones Welsh Director of Finance and performance ,economy ,skills and natural resources said they were almost POWERLESS to stop landlords blocking roll-out. He said they should be “named and shamed ” including big companies ,overseas organisations using the land as a UK post box for their business ( keep that in mind posters ) and even residents who dont want engineers into their gardens. Labour MP Jenny Rathbone blasted them as “outrageous ” . To let you know Paul in the days of BT being part of the GPO -known as GPO Telephones -remember the green vans ? they had government legal authority to enter homes ( as I did ) And access ALL telephone equipment . Privatisation and the new Telephone Act put paid to that ,sorry to say. The current program is being extended to June 2017 but I wouldnt hold my breath . BT/Outreach are waiting ,as is the Welsh government but are being blocked .

Why do all those people who live in “rural” areas think they should have the same facilities as those who live in “urban” areas? The majority of the voting population agreed with the policies of various administrations over the last 30 years, that the nationalised bodies should be privatised. However, privatised companies need a profit margin to survive, so why would they want to invest huge sums installing high speed telecomms to remote areas, unless there is a significant profit in it?
Along with all the other added costs of living in rural areas, is it not time for those people to budget accordingly and cover the costs themselves, either individually or collectively.
I’m a self-employed electrical contractor, and some of my customers live and work 90 miles from the nearest electrical wholesaler. They realise that they have to cover the cost of my transport and time, if I have to make a journey to a wholesaler and back for materials. That can entail a round trip of 180 mls, 4.5hrs driving on a good day.
Like all things in life, if you want it, you have to go and get it yourself. We should not expect to be nanny’d by the state, and if we expect the private companies to “service” communities, as they used to we need to wake up and smell the coffee. It’s not going to happen, unless the state administration, changes to an authoritarian or totalitarian regime, but then, there wouldn’t be any internet either. (See Russia, Zimbabwe and Zambia’s censorship and control on internet traffic)
If fast broadband is so important that you can’t live without it, move to a town or city; but then you probably wouldn’t want some of the other aspects of life that go with it.
I live in a city, and enjoy Virgin Media 60Mb/s fibre delivered broadband, TV and landline. My O2 mobile is old, but works fine. Signal is not 100%, but it’s ok until I go out to the “rurals”. Should I expect mobile phone masts all over the countryside, just to service my phone? 30 years ago, hardly anyone could be contacted away fro home or work. Can we not wait to get home or work etc, before needing to make or receive that call or text?
Seeing the pros and cons of both environments, in today’s world, I’ll settle for the convenience of the city and its’ facilities.

Shaun, this seems to me a bit like buying a house near an airport and then complaining about the noise.

In mitigation a problem many have is that a lot of fairly essential services are being transferred to “on-line”; farmers income support for example and clearly they cannot live in a town. If we choose to create an internet-based society then we must surely provide the appropriate facilities. Maybe those who live in areas that are not likely to be well-served by landline internet could club together to fund their own connection, even if it were more expensive. We have many people who live remote from a mains gas supply but I see no clamour to ensure they are all served by it, despite the extra energy costs they currently incur.

I think where Shaun is going a bit wrong is that rural are paying for a service that barely exists………….Most of us simply have to put up with this but the paying the same as everyone in town is a bit much
As to the ref to rural and 90 miles from an electrical wholesaler many of us who are complaining are not 9 miles from several wholesalers but still dont have signal or internet worth a ball of blue……………..Personally I am 7 miles from a major town…………….3 miles from the nearest village
1.5 miles from the hill with the masts yet we get rubbish since the outset
We do not live in a low population area,,,,,,,,there is a house every few 100 yards

My great grandmother was a Vance??? There is not many of them

BY God Dee they dont come more English than you and no wonder that you like the countryside- Vance-old English- Someone who lives near a marshland (fenn ) -nobody on this forum is going to question your ancestry as it makes you more English than many . Its ranked -888 in the US.

Vance as a name first found in East Lothian same name as Vans,,,,Vaux etc formed Normandy
Our hand me down history says they were the same line as Vans of Barnbarroch……………although they are reluctant to agree to this but the people all came from that area
The Irish side were near all called Vance as we got Anglicised at a time as such
Yes Vance is seen as very English but not always so,,,,,,,,,,The reference as a Vance as someone who lives near a marsh is the same spelling but seldom the same family
You’ll have no trouble knowing where Barnbarroch is
My family surname name was once a nearby county in two parts………….Kings **** and **** Stewart………….You’ll work that one out I’m sure…………
No……….all Scots heritage for as many generations as I can find
My Mums side read like a list of Scots villages……
Over 75% of my ancestors were born and native to Scotland…………..By 75% I’m referring to the confirmed places of birth………..There are many who we cannot find a place of birth but near to all lived in Scotland
Wifey’s maiden name is north of England and South Scotland former Scandinavian……….not very Scots really
My main grip is the mass misplacements of people which have left some of us here in a precarious position as a result of actions not of our own choice
We’re right off topic but I’ll not be called English………British yes but not English

I have always been fascinated by Scottish names and their origins. Ever since the days of Fyfe Robertson I have wondered why so many Scotsmen have a surname for a first name. I was just glad you didn’t say that Luton was where Vance came from.

I get the Luton bit John – smile. A lot of Highland related Scots belonged to clans and the clan name in a lot of cases was used as a first name as a sign of loyalty .

Dee ,sorry if you dont agree with the English I was thinking of the English survey taken before the Scottish referendum ,if as you remember the Unionist parties went big on the Scottish= British theme , even had a woman fro Aberdeen shown in tears saying -sob ! I am British not Scottish . The survey asked England only – do you look on yourself as English or British – the result= 83 % said they were English so looking at it from a Scots perspective they cant work out why they cant be nationalistic when the vast majority in England are extremely nationalistic . They remember being classified by HMG as quote -“North British ” . The problem is 200 years of “Britishisation ” didnt affect the inbuilt feeling of a separate country /people in them Scotlandshire is still used by many Scots, as a nametag that makes them angry. Westminster is going about the psychosocial Scottish aimed propaganda totally the wrong way ,it just makes them more upset. I agree the name is also associated with Ireland and yes John ,if you know your Scots/ English ancient history Northern England along with North East Scotland and the Western Islands belonged to the Vikings hence the large number of Scots with Red hair /fine pale skin . Northern England at one time was part of Scotland . Geordie,s have a lot in common with Scots.

The border once ran from Morecambe bay???????,,,,,,,,,,is that correct???? if my memory serves me well
Yes there is sense of identity that has been mixed up more than a little for us
I know about the Vikings and the red hair………..I’ve been to most of the areas of Scotland including the Western Isles for extended periods
However not all Scots are red haired I fear but one thing we have in common is that we are Celts be we red or swarthy……………

Your right Dee at one time Cumbria/Northumberland once belonged to Scotland but it also belonged to the Vikings <England also owned Southern Scotland at one time . And right again the Normans were not only strong in England but in SCotland too . Robert "the Bruce " -de brus was a Norman noble and yet he fought for Scotland . And Scotland had the "Auld Alliance " with France which English kings didnt like . All up the east coast of Scotland French nobles owned castles and land , Edzell Castle was French owned where my wife met a French knight who appeared as a ghost. Much architecture in Scotland is French inscribed . The Scots were also friendly with Germany the dialects are similar ,a Scot can pronounce German with the same guttural accent as Germans and Germans understand the Scots accent easily ,many east coast Scottish words are German derived . Although the Hanoverian,s became Kings in England the English people never really took to them I am talking the 99 % . many Germans say they are better liked in Scotland than England.