/ Money, Technology

Broadband must be superfast for everyone

Just imagine that every time the Prime Minister wanted to use the internet, he had to go outside Number 10, stand on a chair and hold his phone up to the heavens.

Or run up and down a flight of stairs to turn the router off and on. Or pop round to Number 11 to use their computer. Then wait hours for a document to download.

Naturally, he’d ask his provider for better broadband. The response, if he lived in some parts of the country, would be: it’s too tricky to upgrade you, so we’re not automatically bringing your service into line with the rest of the UK. You can apply for a basic connection, often from a satellite, and you may have to stump up some of the costs of installation.

Why should rural areas put up with this?

Does that sound unfair? It’s reality for hundreds of thousands of people in rural areas. People who told us they really must stand on a chair or sprint downstairs to get a connection.

That’s why when the government announced in 2015 its ambition to put access to broadband on a similar footing to other basic services, such as electricity, there was cause to celebrate. The PM said he wanted to bring fast broadband to everyone by 2020.

That deadline’s rapidly approaching, so the government must get its skates on. And in recent weeks it’s become clear that the commitment may not give us all the superfast connection we need. We’re now told superfast broadband will reach at least 95% of the country by 2017 and the new ‘Universal Service Obligation’ will only give you a legal right to a fast connection, not superfast.

Where does that leave those in the final 5%? You can make an application, but how easy will it be to get connected and how much will you pay? And when it’s done, will your broadband be fast enough to cope with a new generation of digital services?

Even now, people in rural areas struggle to run homes, farms and other businesses with painfully slow internet, below 2Mbps.

If you’re in that 5%, we’re determined you’re not forgotten. We want to work with government to bring in its plans as soon as possible. We want getting connected to be cost effective and simple. In the meantime we’ll make sure your views are heard.

Take action

You can sign up to our broadband campaign and here’s how to complain if you are concerned about the speed of your own connection.

John says:
2 July 2016

I’m in a rural location (but only by 2 miles!) and often cannot ‘stream’ fast enough to enjoy video without interruption. I can get TV from around the world but can’t watch iPlayer! As more and more systems are piled into the ‘online’ bucket speed and even connections retract towards the exchanges. Ever been waiting in a shop checkout because, aside of remembering PINS or which way around the card works, transactions are just waiting for line capacity? Cash can be quicker sometimes! Our spine network just doesn’t seem to have capacity for what we all want (or are even forced, i.e. gov.uk) to do.


Now that a new government is in the offing the question and answer has to be repeated — who is going to pay for it ? This has been brought up again and again and no real answer provided or for that matter any real action , lets be realistic both the government and BT Openreach worked out it would cost 10,s of billions of £££ to provide that cottage in the country down a rural road/lane too much money to justify costs and so all the talk of total coverage was dropped . When I mentioned that the government would need to up the grants to BT many voices came out – tax payers money ,taxes will increase etc ,a legitimate point in so far as it goes but when I mentioned that welfare has been cut for the poor because of “austerity ” that didnt go down well as well as cut defence spending which I was critcised on . As all the other telephone companies refuse to provide FTTP for 100 % of the country and the public dont want an increase in taxes I will repeat my justified question —WHO pays ??? . And please !! for those marking me down for speaking the Truth please have the human decency to reply to me and tell me why I am wrong , why cant people be realistic ?


duncan, I totally agree. Where, exactly, is the money going to come from to pay for the “last 5%”. We are entering uncertain economic times and there are far more important priorities for taxpayers money – not least the NHS. Most people choose where they live and need to consider the facilities that are available. Should they all have mains drainage – other treatment methods exist? Should they all have mains gas (more important financially surely than high speed broadband)? Should they all have a convenient public transport service (those who age may not be able to drive)? Should they all get reliable mobile phone signals (is it economic to spend lots on capital equipment to meet the needs of a very few)?

Which? shows how “deprived” communities who need fast broadband can organise it and fund it. There are great benefits from living in such communities; I do not see why my taxes from hard earned money should be used on what I regard as a lower priority than health, education and benefiting the real vulnerable people in our society.


Until recently I have been using copper broadband with a download speed of around 8 Mbps and now have FTTP broadband with the same service provider in my new home. That provides 50 Mbps download (not up to), but I have not noticed any difference when using my computer because watching iPlayer is probably the most demanding thing that I do. It will make a difference when I upload or download large files but since the days of dial-up I have done this when I am not at the keyboard.

Superfast broadband makes it easier for multiple users and video streaming and downloads, but the cost of providing it to some rural locations is prohibitively expensive, as is providing mains gas. Compromises will have to be made or we will have to cut back public services to fund universal fast broadband.


I cannot support universal fast broadband at further public expense until every property with a telephone line can at least receive 10 mbps by one means or another.

To some extent I do not mind if the cost of the roll-out of faster broadband to remote areas is part-funded through line rentals because it is just as important to be able to receive e-mails and data from anywhere as it is to send them


As I see it, the main use of superfast broadband is media streaming, i.e. as an alternative to either satellite or terrestrial TV.

Hence I really don’t think Which? should waste any of my subscription on campaigning for this non-essential service.


Perhaps, DerekP, Which? would like to answer your valid point. Broadband does not need to be fast or superfast to enable basic tasks to be carried out. I certainly don’t want to subsidise its roll out just for people to watch movies or play games.

A campaign to get durable and repairable appliances would be something I would support, and a much more sensible use of Which?’s campaigning resources than this one.

Anthony Mitchell says:
3 July 2016

By that logic the post office should only deliver to the mainland because most people don’t post to other areas or people who live in remote areas should pay more for electricity and water. The costs per person of a fair a universal service are small, but the costs involved for people who work on our farms or support our rural economy is great.