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Cheaper broadband for rural customers – or is it?

Little snail on lan card with orange background

Ofcom has told BT to reduce the wholesale price it charges other broadband providers to use its network in less populated areas. But will it actually result in cheaper prices for rural customers?

Before any of us get too excited, it’s worth pointing out that by ‘cheaper’ Ofcom really means putting prices for rural customers in line with what others around the country are paying anyway.

So although Ofcom’s moves are obviously a good thing, it’s about time this unfair situation was tackled head on.

BT has to drop wholesale prices

Telecoms regulator Ofcom has told BT to cut the price it charges other broadband providers to use its network in less populated, rural areas. These locations are known as ‘Market 1’ areas where BT is the only provider of wholesale broadband services.

Ofcom hopes that this will increase competition between broadband providers in these areas and force the actual price consumers pay to go down.

Or, if the internet services providers (ISPs) don’t pass on these saving, it hopes that this will at least enable them to allocate more bandwidth to each customer and improve speeds. Either way, it’s good news for rural customers.

Rural broadband must improve

People who live out in the sticks have generally had to put up with slower services at higher prices from many ISPs. And it just doesn’t feel right that where you live dictates the broadband service you get. An internet connection isn’t a luxury or optional extra these days – for most it’s an essential service.

I definitely appreciate what Ofcom’s trying to do here, but – a word of caution – it relies on ISPs actually passing on any savings/benefits to their customers. I sincerely hope this does happen, but I won’t be holding my breath.

Do you live in a low-populated area and suffer from slow and expensive broadband? Is enough being done to make sure rural customers don’t have to put up with a raw broadband deal?

whitmarsh says:
25 July 2011

I don’t see how it can be made cheaper for rural users – my ISP doesn’t base its price on where one lives as far as I know. Perhaps some do. My problem is that I live about 3 miles from a rural exchange and that limits the speed to about 2Mbps; that’s what I would like improved.


Hi whitmarsh and thanks for your comment. There are a number of ISPs that do charge more if you live outside their ‘network’ area – where they have their own equipment installed in the exchanges – BT actually isn’t one of them, but other providers can charge up to around £15 more.


I would fully endorse the comment made by ‘whitmarsh’. We also live just over 3 miles from the exchange and are always informed we are extremely lucky to be getting broadband at all. Our service is capped at half a meg to ensure we manage to retain a connection.

It simply gives a very basic online facility. However, really in this day and age, we should be able to expect a far better service, especially as we are paying a premium rate for it.

Upgrading the exchanges serving rural areas should be an essential priority so everyone can access a reasonable connection speed.


Whitmarsh and danny – in terms of improving speeds in rural areas I couldn’t agree with you both more. I think this should be a high priority. As I mention briefly above, Ofcom hope that one of the effects of the cuts to BT’s wholesale prices could be for providers to be able to offer customers more capacity at the same price, therefore improving speeds.

A lot of ‘hopes’ are going on here so we’ll definitely be keeping an eye on the situation to see what happens in practice!


I agree entirely with Danny and Whitmarsh. I live some 3 miles from the exchange and receive a low and very unreliable sync rate. Contrary to seeking to reduce the cost of my broadband connection, I would be absolutely delighted to be able to pay more if, somehow BT could be persuaded to improve the quality of their network in order to permit better broadband.

The main problem for rural subscribers is not usually one of cost, but is the technical one which requires significant capital investment by BT to improve the rural network. The Ofcom directive to BT actually represents a financial disincentive to invest in the rural network – i.e. it works in the wrong direction and could actually be bad news for rural subscribers.

Paul Murray says:
26 July 2011

Ok… so I have sky everything… except broadband…. free this and free that if I take their 20MB broadband (£5/mth i think it was). But no, where I live I can have 2MB only, and that’ll be £17.50 / month!!!

TonyMK says:
26 July 2011

I’m just moving from the centre of Milton Keynes to a village about 5 miles away, rural but hardly out in the sticks. My ISP’s sales chap had all sorts of deal he could offer until he realised that the local exchange wasn’t unbundled at which point the costs rose from £9 /month to £21/month. When I asked if the exchanged was scheduled to be unbundled he said that it probably wouldn’t make any difference as there were too few subscribers on the exchange to warrant the expense. To crown it all there’s no 3G in the village either!


I am only 300 yards form our Exchange but it is not unbundled. We are stuck with a BT line although, at a price, you can get other ISP’s. I started with BT and moved to O2 (we have their mobiles) and have been with them for over 2 years now. Exchange can manage 8Mb but we get (on a good day) around 6Mb.
Their are no plans for LLU and I cannot any prospect of it improving in the long term.

C J Waller says:
26 July 2011

We use Beyondsl this works via a station in the sky above the equator. We have to send a request to the station in the sky and it then sends the answering signal back to our dish, Up and down work at different speeds and this is not ideal. It is very expensive to use. We are required by law to send our vat returns and other forms to governments. We are forced to use this expensive service as nothing else works. Soon we will all have to send our tax returns via internet. How?

Most unfair.