/ 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.


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.

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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.

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.

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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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!

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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

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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?

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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.

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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.

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!!!

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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!

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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