/ 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.

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The press release says you can request 10Mbps, it doesn’t say you will get it.
So if you are currently in the 5% group with totally inadequate internet speeds, I expect you will be staying there.

Ha! The magic 90% figure… So the 10 % or the 1% – people like me with a mile long track will never get anything… And I’m in the middle of Shropshire with high speed connection all around me. Nobody is EVER going to run a cable / fibre a mile long just to supply me. Government guarantees – rubbish – meaningless..

I would be willing to pay for a faster connection but it is not a possibility. Yes, we are in a rural area but not that rural, and only a matter of three miles from an area with superfast Broadband. Our maximum available speed with any provider is 0.6KBPS with upload speeds of maximum 0.2. The connection drops out frequently and we have had days of BT engineers’ time to no lasting effect. We cannot stream anything and a smart TV is an irrelevance. A sound connection with 10MBPS seems more of a fantasy than achievable reality for us, but I would settle for half that speed at the moment. We have no gas and we have no reliable mobile signal or regular bus service either, but these are manageable compromises in return for rural living, but the lack of decent Broadband is becoming more and more of a handicap as everyone else gets faster and faster service. Yes, maybe town dwellers will be subsidising rural communities in future, but we have been paying the same as them for years for a comparatively very poor service which has had no new investment at all, as we use the old copper telephone cables for our Broadband.

Whilst I sympathise with a lack of BB speed most make choices as to where we live and presumably consider such matters as gas, drainage, transport and…..broadband. When the government provides subsidies it is not their money they use, it is yours and mine as taxpayers. Should I pay towards someone else’s broadband or should my taxes be spent on the real essential services – NHS, supporting the vulnerable with fuel bills, providing housing support for families who really need it. It is a choice of how to use limited funds.

I am prepared for thumbs down,

How about you and I pay a little more for our broadband so that Paula can enjoy a better service?

It need not affect provision of essential services.

Their are plenty of people deserving my charity but paying for someone else’s broadband is not on my list. I’m happy for you to chip in if you wish.

Incidentally, when people talk about what they miss, we have no idea how wealthy they might be, or why they decided to live where they do.

I might have loads of money, bought a remote but lovely country house with a septic tank, no gas, poor broadband. Many in London might envy the views, the gardens, the lake and happily swap for their broadband.

The Prime Minister has announced that rural areas will be better served by broadband. Whether that is funded by the companies or by government, users are likely to pay more unless the overall cost of providing services falls.

That is effectively what will happen, Wavechange. We will all be paying a bit more through our tariff so that everybody can have access to high speed broadband. Far better that the cost of this falls on telecom subscribers and broadband users [which includes commerce and industry] than be added to personal or indirect taxation which impacts on people who might be non-users.

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Broad Band ! It takes BT months to connect you to the local exchange, My daughter moved to a new house on a large new housing estate near Cardiff airport. All the cabling was there, all that was needed was to connect it at the local exchange. 4 months before BT Openreach got to it after dozens of phone calls, (mobile) via Bangladesh Mumbai, very hard as they couldn’t communicate in English, or Welsh! Pull your finger out BT , Broadband, you wish.. not a hope in hell.

This weekend’s issue of our local newspaper, the Bridgnorth Journal, has an interesting PERSONAL pledge from our Dave to the people of Shropshire: “We will connect you all to super fast broadband”. He announced “a commitment to connect the entire county by the end of his term in power in 2020”. A comfortable 4 ½ years to waffle on in the hope that the “pledge” will be forgotten… as it has been done before. We were promised “super fast broadband” across Shropshire in the early days of the Coalition but only 40,000 connections have been achieved so far and “it is hoped to connect another 20,000 soon”. I am one of the ‘connected’, and my current Which? broadband speed test shows Download at 36.92 Mb/s and Upload at 9.6 Mb/s which should be pretty good… but browser still blocks all too regularly for a number of minutes at a time. If that is what we have to accept for the joy of “super fast”, I don’t see the increased benefit. Still, as our Dave concludes that he plans a “universal service obligation” for broadband, as with water and electricity, then that’s OK then. If that is not actually achieved by 2020, then I expect our Dave, having dumped the stress of playing at PM, to roll up his sleeves and come here to fulfil his pledge, connecting the isolated farms and other properties that one finds, so inconveniently for BT, in rural areas. Can anyone lend him a spade?

I contacted the Shropshire broadband team and was told ‘no – you’ll never be connected -you are too far from anywhere’ (7 minutes from Bridgnorth and 4 minutes from Highley in Chelmarsh) but offered a grant to companies doing some sort of microwave system. Only problem – all the companies said ‘ oh – sorry – not enough people in your area – not viable – sorry’. Now offered a grant for satellite – ‘ oh – sorry – no, the satellite companies aren’t QUITE fast enough to qualify for the grants now – we want faster speeds… ‘ So we carry on with our 0.4Mb connection – yes – zero point 4 – and go away for a coffee when working on anything on the internet. We pay the same rates, the same price for the damn internet line – there comes a point where a group legal challenge as to the validity of Shropshire Councils rates and services, and BT’s legal validity to charge money has to take place. These sods are creaming the big cities, and leaving the rest of the world to fry in hell.

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I live in the Scottish Northwest Highlands on the end of about 7 miles of copper wire. The line speed is just about 1 MB and my download speed is rarely more than 130 Kbytes. Currently BT engineers are trying to figure out why nearly every time my phone rings the broadband is cut off. I would be happy just to have a stable service. The speeds commentators on here are referring to are the thing of dreams!!!

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My Broadband speed in a Worcestershire village on our new fibre optic link is 36 Mbps. Cost of £17 p/m from PlusNet. No complaints.

SFBB Essential? It is to me. Everyone I know who doesn’t have it (me included) are living like second class citizens. For me its not a question of not being prepared to pay the going rate (eg £30-£60/month) its that its simply not technically possible to buy the service so we pay just as much for a hopeless service (1.2Mbps). The problem with basic infrastructure is that its not good business economics to install a universal service. If you use nationalised providers the tax payer fronts the cost and everyone pays even if they don’t want it. If you used private companies, the customer pays for it, but uneconomic customers cant get it (ie where the UK is now). So since we don’t want to renationalise, but we do want universal infrastructure, why don’t we just empower Ofgem (or whoever) to raise a levy on all the participating firms as a percentage of turnover or profit or capital base or whatever will be a fair reflection of their relative take and is the hardest number to minimise. Ofgem then award contracts back to provide the infrastructure to everyone. It becomes a cost of the business and everyone who benefits from the service (no matter where they live) contributes equally to it though their charges. I’m sure this is deeply flawed but its the best idea I’ve come up with other than winning the Euromillions and buying my own new infrastructure.

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”So since we don’t want to renationalise, … ”

Speak for yourself, please.
Less of the ”We”, and more of the shareholding, asset stripping, subsidized profit snatching ”Me / I / Us ” OK.

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Ged Boydell says:
17 November 2015

We often get as low as 0.4 Mbps. We have BT and they are worse than useless but there is no choice, we can’t even watch the iplayer.

Here on the Isle of Mull, Scotland, BT have been subsidised to exend fibre beyond what they deemed ‘commercially viable’. This has happened in other areas too, of course. Those areas on Mull and some other islands still not covered are going to get wireless broadband. A contract has been signed and we hope to be connected by late summer of next year. Speeds of 50Mb/s will be offered, but most people seem likely to settle for less

The capital cost has been funded by ‘state aid’ (i.e. the UK tax-payer), but the service is to be run at commercial rates, with packages priced according to speed. The prices are only a little higher than BT’s normal rates (ignoring BT’s very low introductory offers) and since reliable wireless broadband will allow us to give up the land line, may actually work out cheaper.

The process has been driven by a local community company, though of course with help from statutory bodies. I suggest this would be a practical model for other remote areas in UK.

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Ann Watson says:
17 November 2015

We had less than 1 for internet till I paid £35 a month then… magic….. up to 30 speed….not affordable for lots of families.
The other ‘essential’ in modern life is mobile phone signal, we have none and when th power company wanted to put a smart meter in they could not, nor could they believe we have absolutly no signal.
Nor were we allowed to put solar panels on the roof, yet another ‘no’ from the powers that be locally when we are supposed to use renewables. Mixed messages especially for rural people and we have two towns within 3miles so not that rural.

Richard Edwards says:
17 November 2015

An obligation of 10MBit/s is all very well, but there also needs to be an obligation on the usage limits. I attended a parish council meeting at which BT & the Local Council presented their plans for our very rural area. If we can’t improve on our current 1.5MBit/s using super-fast broadband via our landline (carried across the fields on poles), they offered us satellite broadband – yes download speeds in excess of 10MBit/s, but limited to a maximum of 10GB per month! About 1.5 HD films… The cost for extra 1GB was extortionate!

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John Ward said “I have a feeling the weasel word “affordable” will be a debating point. ”
I could not agree more. I was offered 10 Mbps up and 10Mbps down guaranteed at £700 pm personally I do not find that “affordable”.
Anyone who has the money to pay for it can have it right now!

I think that you would do far better to say if you don’t get 2Mbps its not broadband. A minimum standard. Then at least you know where you stand and you have right to complain when you don’t get it

The government needs to take a page out of the German governments play book when it comes to mobile broadband. Where they have to connect rural customers with greater priority than city. So they must have a rural LTE (4G) customer for every one they have in a City.
As a result it is easier for customers to get rural 4G than 4G in cities. And the providers win as it is cheaper to set up 4G than fibre-optic . OK 4G will not outperform fibre-optic
but it is better than 2Mbps.

Steve says:
17 November 2015

I live in a “rural” area 25 miles north of London – a village between St Albans Luton and Welwyn. My best speed is between 2 and 5mbps – better than some, but rural ??? It’s a bigger problem which BT and Virgin choose not to address. 4g is faster !

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So far as I am aware, the Scottish government cannot live off Scottish taxpayers alone. Rightly – because we are a united realm – there is a redistribution of revenues from the UK Treasury to the Scottish Parliament as well as to Wales and Northern Ireland. This ensures that yields from corporate and indirect taxation [concentrated in England] as well as from the larger number of personal taxpayers in England are available to provide universal services across the UK from which everybody in the UK benefits. Within its overall budget [and subject to UK Parliament policy] the Scottish Parliament can allocate funds to provide additional support. Shire counties can make similar provisions in England.

The high speed broadband rollout across the UK has been partly funded by all UK taxpayers. Now that extensive availability has been achieved the UK government has decided that the final requirements will be provided through the Universal Service Obligation mechanism imposed on licensed broadband service providers.

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Thank you Duncan. The point I was trying to make is that additional funding for extensions or enhancement of the network in England are funded through county councils [which in turn get some of their money from central government grant] and by local enterprise partnerships, therefore there is no need for criticism of the government in this case as the situations in England and Scotland are parallel even if the delivery mechanisms are different. I don’t have a political perspective on this and actually do not see it as a political issue, but I recognise that that is obviously a matter of opinion.

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Broadband, What broadband?
Our Village Hall in Westerdale has been waiting 7 months for a phone line!
There is no mobile phone signal in the area. Satellite and wireless relay is unaffordably expensive.
Where Broadband is available, download speeds vary from very low to 5 mb/s dependent on the part of the Dale in which you live.

Anne Ward says:
18 November 2015

Down loading this has taken me over 2 minutes! and I live in the middle of a town (Totnes, in South Devon) My youngest daughter and her husband live in North Devon in a rural area and can’t get high speed broadband. He runs an internet design business and has to travel to Barnstaple every day to hot desk in order to get a good connection. This is very frustrating and time consuming for all of us.

Penelope Stott says:
18 November 2015

In a village halfway between Stratford upon Avon and Birmingham we just manage around 1.8 Mbps

Diana Cable says:
18 November 2015

In this day and age it essential to have a decent broadband speed, even if you choose to live in rural areas, and run your own business.

‘Affordable’ broadband of 10 mb. Wow – in the far east the norm is 100 mb. With such low ambitions we are never going to catch up with the world and as for ‘affordable’ – who says it is – politicians with their recent massive pay rise and all their stuff on expenses?

Norfolk, being widely recognised as the vibrant, energetic and thrusting county that it is, has found that it also has a need for better rural broadband and it has teamed up with an unlikely provider. The Church of England’s Diocese of Norwich is involved in a scheme which uses the spires and towers of churches all across the county to transmit data to remote villages. Fixed wireless points on churches beam the signals to other church spires and towers in order to create a network and users have a receiver on top of their property to bring the signal from their nearest church to their building. The Diocese and the regional newspaper group are the main shareholders in the company. The transmitters typically cover an area of 5 km radius but that can be increased up to 10 km. However, at present the average speed is only 8 Mbps so it’s no better than the standard speed – but it’s a lot better than the low or non-existent speeds in many remote pockets of the countryside. With nearly nine hundred churches in Norfolk [not all CofE] there is no shortage of village-based locations for this service. I dare say the blessed broadband is on the blink as often as with other networks but it has filled a few gaps in coverage and helped a number of farmers and businesses to operate and compete effectively.

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