/ 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.

I have ordered goods for delivery to friends living in the highlands of Scotland. I have been charged extra for delivery compared with what I have to pay to have the same goods delivered to me in England. The recipients told me they regularly pay supplements for delivery of goods ordered online.

To reply to Athony Mitchell’s challenge, I was not commenting on the universal need for adequate broadband but on the Which? campaign for it to also be superfast – an extra step that may be superfluous.

That can work both ways. I have friends who live on the NW coast near Gairloch. At one stage they experimented with retailing locally caught seafood at a local harbour and bought a “fish trailer” for this on ebay. The price included delivery within the UK – and the seller turned out to be in Kent. Nonetheless, the seller honoured his pledge and delivered it to NW Scotland.

Anthony Mitchell says:
3 July 2016

I respectfully disagree applications and functionality now require faster download speeds. The same download speeds which allow video streaming and gaming also allow families to talk over Skype. It is also needed by local businesses such as those of my cousin which need higher speeds to upload photos/videos to her website or my aunt and uncle who are farmers and need to use websites and online ordering, which now includes videos and not just photos of products and services they need to buy. I would also note that thanks to the internet there are no DVD rental shops and the post office no longer process applications for things like EHICs.

Anthony Mitchell says:
3 July 2016

Sadly it is true the competitors to Royal Mail are not required to honour the universal service obligation which also I think is wrong.

No disrespect Anthony as you sound sincere but know you know the Real charges of providing FTTP for remote or long copper lines (miles ) to a house ? it could reach £10000 or more . Now multiply that by the 5 % of the UK population . Have you thought about the engineering work required ? . But okay I will ask a question do you haver FTTC ? if so you can ask for FTTPoD which is=fibre to the premises on demand . One off fixed charge of £500 +VAT monthly rental =approx £40 –one off distance charge (cost of building the network ) approx =£2/metre , also Excess Construction Charge (ECC) which could add £1000,s to the bill . I realise you want the tax payers to pay for it as no private company with shareholders , in their right mind ,be it BT or others is wiling to see a massive drop in their income ,but can you see the majority of the public dont want to pay it in taxes and make their voice heard very loudly and honestly I cant see an argument against a majority in this case . Could you present a practical answer to this problem ?

If the internet is a trader’s shop-front then they will have to pay for it as they would for a place on the high street. We need to get basic broadband functionality in the 10-20 Mbps range to every property that has a landline. This includes the highlands and islands. The things the Post Office have stopped processing like [EHIC applications] can be done on line at quite low speeds or by printing-off and posting. Pre-internet means of communication are still available.

John if you mean BT have got to pay say £30 billion ,its never going to happen . BT are one ,if not the biggest provider of jobs in the UK , millions own shares in it as well as a lot of BT pensioners that amount of money would hit them all hard , and who benefits ,not BT but all the other private telephone companies who will get something for nothing and their shareholders will be laughing all the way to the bank.

The Intro tells us that the government has pledged to bring fast broadband to 95% of the UK by 2020. It goes on to say “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“. So I deduce from that that there will be 100% fast coverage by 2020. The government is paying for this and telecoms providers will no doubt have to send an invoice to BIS or whoever in order to get their expenditure back.

As there have been various comments about this I will give you the official figures for broadband usage all minimum Mbps download speed– Email=0.5–web browsing= 0.5 to 1.0 Mbps –watching videos =standard streaming =0.7 Mbps–feature movies =1.5Mbps HD quality= 4.0 Mbps -gaming=1.0 to 4.0 Mbps . Source FCC USA . All minimum at those speeds for the particular usage required you should not have buffering but young people like high quality gaming and others need more and the number of users have to be taken into account – so you have light use -moderate use -and high use . Basic use =1 to 2 Mbps — Medium use = 6 to 15 Mbps — Advanced use =more than 15 Mbps -(last update October 30-2014 )– bureau of Engineering + Technology. So if you have several people in that remote cottage using Internet gaming be prepared to be disappointed but if single user and normal usage a couple of Mbps is adequate. On the other hand -Netflix recommend for ULTRA HD -= 25 Mbps.

Thank you for that Duncan. That is useful info. It supports the point I made in a previous Conversation that 10-20 Mbps is sufficient for normal household requirements. If five people want to go on line on the same line simultaneously that does not justify higher capacity at public expense [a second line might be the answer].

I support Derek P’s comments as well.

As soon as I see a new Conversation is authored by Peter Vicary Smith I realise it is a curve ball thrown in to get our backs up and grab the headlines. “Fast” is fast enough for most but let’s get it everywhere first and then attend to more pressing issues.

David Ramsaidh says:
3 July 2016

So most of what I’m seeing here is an “I’m alright jack” mentality. I’ve got broadband so why should I pay for someone else to have it?.
I live in the highlands, my broadband is 2mbps absolute max, it also cuts out completely every day at least once. I live 3.5miles from an 80mbps cabinet, I will never see those speeds. Why because bt don’t want to cut into their profits.
Everyone keeps asking who should pay for it? Well the answer is BT, do you think they’re poor?
Also blah blah my hard earned tax paying money, well here’s a news flash we pay taxes too. And “that’s what you get for living in the sticks!” Well I live here, this is my home, why should I Be penalised because of the disillusion that the centre of the universe is somewhere in England. United Kingdom?? I don’t think so! Attitudes like this that make Independence a must!
I use the internet for business and entertainment, I don’t agree with some moral high ground cheap shot about what is an acceptable use of the internet, I don’t have a tv, yet I still pay my TV licence required by law as I have a computer and Internet, so I’d say I’m entitled to Internet speeds actually fast enough to watch something.
Just to give you an idea of other issues we have to deal with.
If I order goods online, I’m faced with either (a) heavy surcharge as I’m not classed as mainland UK, what??? Is there an ocean seperating us I don’t know about? Or (b) we won’t deliver to you! Or (c) as long as it’s super small or I buy something quite expensive it will be delivered free. It takes at least four times as long to purchase an item as I have to trawl through each sellers detailed postal terms to establish if it’s a b or c, even then if I had a pound for every cancelled order email due to delivery, I’d be doing alright! All doing this on my awesome lightning fast yoghurt pot Internet, all slowly chewing into my precious time. When a 1 min task takes 2 mins, my available time is cut in half, never mind taking five mins or not at all, let’s not even go there. But this is my life that’s being taken up here, and I would much rather be enjoying myself than fannying about with a third rate service which I depend on. It’s 2016, we should have jet packs and laser guns never mind Internet that works. Because the fact is it’s not like they can’t do it, it’s just that they won’t do it. It’s purely because they have a monopoly on the market, otherwise you would tell them to go jump, but you can’t, simply because there is no one else and this is the crucial point in why they should be held to task and why they should do better!
And in response to all the other comments for better services and products , well we’re leaving the beast known as the EU, and now is a perfect time to start doing things the way they should be done, not out sourced for the cheapest price, but with worth and longevity by a properly paid work force.

David – nobody held a gun to the head of EVERY telephone company other than BT and said –NO ! only BT can work with HMG to install widespread fibre broadband coverage . Every single one of them REFUSED ,why , their shareholders wouldnt allow it . BT is a private company ,you voted for it to be privatised shouting ,its time private enterprise took over . Are you honestly telling me that other private companies ,even with government help will provide FTTP at low cost ? .They wont . I take it you live on a Scottish Western Island ? which is limited in its line provision to BT because nobody else wants to provide to a service that will lose it money . It can be line + microwave provision and yes it can be very slow but haven’t you heard Nicola,s providing extra grants to BT in excess of HMG to help people in your situation ,so in the interests of practicality and even handedness can you provide the Scottish Island you live in so I can check it out ? Now that would be only fair , wouldn’t it ? And yes I know about satellite and wireless provision I take it it is too dear for you ? although even that might be subsidized by Holyrood .

David – What I have suggested would give you 10-20 Mbps instead of your present 2 Mbps. The outreach is rolling now and I can see that, being in the Highlands, you might be at the end of the line for upgrading, but I should think your distance of only 3.5 from an 80 Mbps cabinet should put you in an advantageous position.

Phil says:
3 July 2016

We live a few miles north of Stratford-Upon-Avon and yet both BT and the Government and MP’s feel it’s acceptable to call this a “REMOTE AND HARD TO GET TO AREA” Is it possible that they ALL failed geography at school. This is BT in charge and it’s a con. Wake up to the reality Government and take control of BDUK, it’s our money NOT BT’s!

Phil-of coarse the government grant to BT is “your ” money (taxpayers ) but are you really saying all those companies complaining in computer mags that they are hard done by can install FTTP ,or are we talking Wireless ? You do know the cost is many 10,s of billions of £££ to provide FTTP , which private firms will do that rather than just complain ? . You want BT to outlay infrastructure but dont want contributions from other telephone companies ? BT offers other companies when new ducting and cable are installed in new estates the chance of contributing most dont . Does Virgin media allow others to use their ducting +cable ? . Have we an assurance( in writng ) that those private companies will provide 100 % of the UK population with FTTP

Lin Wren says:
3 July 2016

I live in Portishead n Bristol. I have periods when I can’t even watch sky. Halford the town is done but not the new houses. BT Say it’s not their responsibility and Open Reach say it the Councils fault in W-S-M for not letting them? Wrote to Council & they said permissions have been given 2 yrs ago. Pill village 2 miles away has super broadband. So fed up

Something not quite right here Lin . Is it because BT was barred from your area and another ISP allowed to take over the area ? If so BT have no, legal jurisdiction to supply service there. If the new houses ,as you say were “not done ” that is the responsibility of the builders for not allowing Openreach to install their plant , they have got to give legal permission to carry out the work . I will try to check up on your area.

Julian Bradley says:
3 July 2016

Your recent article laments the situation of many rural dwellers and their slow broadband speed.
We live 10 miles from the centre of London and have to make do with just 3mps, and that’s on a good day.
Lobbying BT, Ofcom, local councillors and our MP has achieved nothing. What now?

Julian -do you live in a community ? , if so you can get together and apply for wireless broadband . I take it you have FTTC but you are a long distance from the cabinet . or have you 4G mobile? you can tether it to your computer. What has BT told you as regards why you cant be upgraded ?.

Lin Wren says:
3 July 2016

I live in Portishead 6miles from Bristol. Half of the town has SF broadband but the new houses don’t. BT says it’s Open Reach. Open Reach says it the Councils. They are waiting for agreements by planning. They say that they have given permission 2 yrs ago for street furniture. I can’t always get to watch my Sky programmes or record. Would be delighted if Which can put an end to our misery. 2 miles away the village has Super Fast Broadband.

LIn- there could be a legal issue here so I dont know how Which could help ? Openreach may need access to land that is privately owned and cant now insist on access like the old GPO did. What I have found is a company in Portishead called Iconnect who have an engineer called Shane who gets 5 stars from homes and businesses alike in sorting out broadband problems ,he might have more local knowledge on your problem . I dont want to post his tele number etc as it might be construed that I was advertising his company.

bishbut says:
4 July 2016

Promises,promises ,and more promises that all we seem to get from any MP or government no matter who is in power.. Superfast Broadband just added to the list

I don’t think the government has ever promised universal superfast broadband, Bishbut. It is coming to some areas because the telecoms providers see a marketing potential and because there is little extra cost in installing the additional capacity at the time of extending the network, civil engineering being the biggest cost element. Solo and small cluster locations at long distances from the network should get fast broadband however.

Rosemary says:
5 July 2016

Where I live in Aberdeenshire we can only have BT broadband as we are at the outer reach from the telephone exchange and the line will not support Sky broadband or so we are told. We will not get fibre for months and we are told it will not make any difference. We are paying the full unlimited price and do not get a good service at all. Again the big BT do not give a dam for customers who live in the country, it is so unfair that we do not have a choice but to put up with it!!!

Rosemary -if you are miles from the street cabinet , yes it wont make a big difference to the speed but it should be a slight improvement as that moves the exchange speed to the cabinet so cutting down the long run of copper from your home to the exchange . Sky would probably tell you they cannot increase your speed either as they wont be banned from an old copper run of cable . If you live in a village you can get together and apply for wireless broadband Holyrood will help with grants , satellite will be too dear for you (unless you can afford it ) . It is a fact of life in the engineering sense that unless you get FTTP (fibre to the premises ) you will not get high speeds as you live in an isolated position. i take it you want to watch and download films etc and your speed is not high enough ? What area of Aberdeen to you live in so I can check ?

Michael Lamden says:
7 July 2016

It is about time that the Government got their act together on this vital issue. They need to be reminded that action speaks louder than words. Buck up your ideas, Mr Cameron.

Zibi says:
8 July 2016

I live in new build estate and can’t have fibre optic broadband from no one, as there is no suitable line! Really? My speed is like 3 mb/s… And why do I have to pay this same line and broadband fee as somebody who gets 20mb/s??? This is all wrong!

If you live in a new build estate Zibi and only have copper then your estate owners and builders wouldnt pay for it . Any(excluding Virgin Media ) telephone company will install basic service unless paid for FTTP (fibre to the premises ) . No suitable line can mean copper underground cable and it depends whether you have FTTC (fibre to the cabinet ) and copper to your home on whether the speed is high or not . If you have FTTC and you have 3 Mbps then logically the housing estate is a long way from the cabinet -ie- your estate is in the country or an isolated piece of land . Or your cabinet has not been upgraded to FTTC . Its down to money and distance . Why dont you ask the estate manager why your speed is too slow and why they wouldnt pay for FTTP . You pay rental on your line as it has to be maintained . BT do BT basic + broadband its a cheap basic package but you need to be getting help from the state to apply. Otherwise most companies have a minimum package which takes in “up to 20 Mbps ” . It might be “all wrong ” in this country but Britain doesnt heavily subsidize broadband from the tax payers like some European countries there are politics involved.

It had not occurred to me that new estates would be provided with copper broadband. I wonder how long it will be before this is ripped up or abandoned, making way for fibre broadband.

As soon as somebody pays for it wavechange . I spent some time checking into provision of telephone lines to new estates over the years and its entirely down to profits by the company building the houses , many wont even pay for basic line installation , many more just throw a cable in the garden 6 inches under the earth only to be dug up or the weather expose it –cheapskates the lot of them ! People see lovely pictures of homes in a country setting with flowers in the garden , sun in the sky and happy smiling home owners in TV adverts etc. but never come down to earth enough to realise one thing -UTILITIES .

Indeed. I will comment on a utility problem that I have in another Convo.

I have just remembered something wavechange when I was starting out in BT before it was privatised I went with a senior engineer to a private house to lay a heavily reinforced underground cable from the pole DP to his house in an upmarket area all the homeowner had to do was dig a deep enough trench and we laid the cable at no cost to him ,–changed days !!

Mark Phillips says:
9 July 2016

I live in Putney, SW15. While I am able to get gigabit broadband at my flat, a friend half a mile away can’t get any superfast broadband at all.

In London zone 2 this is an absolute disgrace! You can understand why rural communities are further down the installation order (but I agree they are as important) but leaving one street without fibre when all around already have it it just crazy.

Mark- not all of Putney ,SW15 is covered by FTTC and FTTP ,although you do have a large variety of telephone companies available in your area . Its down to cost the most heavily used and largest amount of users in an area get first priority for fast broadband and as limited amount of grants are available there cant be mass coverage , even it seems ,in inner London where you would not expect long copper runs because of the large population and previous mass cable installations . Putney exchange does say they dont cover all areas of Putney with high speed fibre. So its down (as always ) to money and commercial business practices.

Jim Clarke says:
14 July 2016

I live six miles outside Norwich. The village in which I live is a long strip. BT have placed a fibre to cabinet box on the edge of the village. This provides me with a speed of less than 1 mbs. There are no plans to improve my connection to this box, despite the speed being below any target. It seems like a job half done.
Everybody used to be entitled to a telephone connection regardless of where they lived. The same should apply to broadband.

Jim- if the village cabinet has been enabled for FTTC then that cabinet is like the telephone exchange as far as distance is concerned . If you are getting less than 1Mbps and are paying for a fibre connection in your telephone bundle then you have the right of cancellation due to non-compliance of contract but if you are still on the old copper line and only paying for that then you cannot get any advantage just because there is a FTTC installation . If you are paying for a fibre connection then that speed would mean you are 2 miles or more from the cabinet , it must be a very long village. Without more information I cannot help you more. -please tell me how far you are from the cabinet and whether you upgraded to fibre with a HH5 if you are a BT customer. .

AS this comment comes up all the time here is a list of average speeds compared to distance for FTTC –150m =80Mbps -200m=65Mbps -300m=45Mbps -I wont go through them all but – 1000m =24Mbps 1500m=15Mbps (this equals a mile ,nearly ) so you see even if you have fibre the speed drops substantially with distance and remember wi-fi can cut the speed in half .