Superfast broadband - are we getting there?


Today, according the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, is Super Switch On Day.

Rural communities across the UK are getting access to superfast broadband for the first time as fibre cabinets are switched on. "Rejoice!" is the message - we're on our way to achieving the government's ambition of giving the UK the best fast broadband in Europe. So should we believe the hype?

Well, scratch the surface of the press release and you find that what is being celebrated is superfast access for another 5000 homes and businesses in Wiltshire and South Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Kent and Medway, Cheshire, the Cotswolds and Shropshire. Great news for them - but not a huge number.

The government goes on to say that a total of 200,000 premises will have been given access by Christmas. That, by my reckoning, is 1% of UK households, and as the rural broadband programme is supposed to serve the 30% which will not be reached by the market, there is obviously quite a way to go.

We know that the whole programme has suffered repeated delays, and the original target of 90% coverage by 2015 has been modified - the plan now is to provide for 95% of homes by 2017.

And whenever I raise the issue, I get a flood of messages from people across the UK angry that they are still missing out on any kind of decent broadband connection.

Here are a few responses I got on Twitter today when I asked whether superfast broadband had arrived in rural areas:

"I live in central Edinburgh. No sign of any fast broadband. Only 500m from Scottish parliament. Too many cobbles!"

"Living in Rotherhithe, we are not expecting better than 3-4 megabits anytime soon, because of long exchange only lines."

"It'll reach Borsetshire before it reaches rural north Herefordshire."

"Far from it in north Monmouthshire. Can't even watch YouTube on TV at home!"

Start Quote

Looking at some research on how we compare with other countries - the news here is quite good”

End Quote

But I've also been looking at some research on how we compare with other countries - and, believe it or not, the news here is quite good. A report by the telecoms analysts Analysys Mason found that the UK was outperforming other major European economies in a number of areas, and was well placed to lead Europe by 2018.

Both access to superfast broadband and take-up were ahead of the likes of Germany, France and Italy. Now it has to be stressed that the report does not include countries such as Sweden, the Netherlands and Denmark, and it was commissioned by BT - which has won every local authority rural broadband contract so far.

But another research company Point Topic backs up the view that the UK is doing OK. Its report this summer predicted that the government's target of 95% coverage by 2017 would be achieved. Oliver Johnson from Point Topic says, "Although BT started late it is now living up to its promises. We will certainly be top of a number of metrics when it comes to comparing with the major European economies."

Many communities remain deeply frustrated by the slow pace of the rural broadband programme and the arguments over exactly which areas BT plans to cover. That in particular has caused a lot of anger for those trying to get community broadband projects off the ground. But, even though we often assume that we do these things worse than other countries, the evidence is that in villages in Bavaria or Brittany, you will hear the same moans about slow broadband.

Rory Cellan-Jones Article written by Rory Cellan-Jones Rory Cellan-Jones Technology correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    And as per usual, there is sod all up north. Do we not pay the same prices as in the south, do we not need a better connection as much as they do down south? I am 5 miles from Newcastle and I still only get basic broadband. They should be worrying about the suburbs in the north rather than the countryside down south.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    We need more B4rn projects. I only get 0.9mbps from a fibre cabinet :(. At least it's better than Sky was giving me!

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    25 Scotty, you must be the only one in your street using it then. simply put if there is a Gig at the exchange, if more than 10 people are online you will get 100 meg max, if there are 100 you will get 10. The total of the users cannot be greater than the exchange can handle.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    There are FTTC cabs around me, but no service yet.
    My best friend's building has 2 FTTC cabs outside in Birmingham, BTopenreach says fibre isn't in his area yet. The cabs say on them "Fibre now available in your area"
    How can we get "superfast" installs when the people doing the installs don't seem to know what stage their own equipment is installed to!

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    Still can't get it here in Pimlico for godz sakes....

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    Superfast broadband is a future proofing thing... The average user may not need that sort of bandwidth right now.

    But who knows how we will end up using the internet! The more speed the merrier

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    Consistent 35/36(Mbps) Down & 4.4/4.6(Mbps) Up
    On EE Fibre, @ 1Km(walking) to Green Cabinet.
    Peeps need to:
    > Remove the bell wire.
    > Get proper face plates.
    > No extension leads

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    I was told by BT openreach that Fibre will not come to the cabinet that serves my street was told there is not enough properties to make it "Commercially Viable" down the street I see superfast broadband cabinets. Lack of competition is the reason why things are progressing slow. I bet if there where another company with a network equally as large as BT that we would have 90% coverage by now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    4. Trytastic

    I have Virgin XL and regularly run at 120+ Mbps and will be getting 150Mbps next year. Very rarely if at all does the speed drop to a poor level.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    I've found it doesn't matter how fast the broadband you buy is, what you get is a completely different thing. Up to 75mbs, guess what your area only supports 15mbs. And anyway during peak times, when you yourself will be needing to use the internet, it'll remind you of 56k dialup.
    Superfast broadband, in the UK, does not exist.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    Yep, I live in relatively central London, get 7mbits, have a long exchange only line so cant get FTTC because there is no cabinet!

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    Surely it would be better for the government to spend the money allocated on the HS2 project for fast Broadband
    This would benefit Industry far more than a train line and would have the spin off of bringing Broadband to more remote areas as well.
    We are lagging behind asian countries in Broadband speeds by a milealready

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Definitely dont believe the hype

    Im on Superfast Broadband but I typed this HYS posting last Thursday and I see its only just arrived

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Our download speed is 0.33 Mbps and upload speed is 0.13 Mbps. We get regular buffering and watching any item even linked to the BBC website is impossible. We moved streets in the same area recently and the change in service is dreadful.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    I'm averaging 30mbps.

    I genuinely can't remember the last time I paid for a film or box set. All in HD too!!

    Scoff that MPAA.... Boom!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    I live literally next door to an exchange and BT wouldn't run through a fibre line into the flat I am residing. Instead all I was offered was ADSL an old technology by today’s standards. The maximum down rate I receive it 1MB (12Mbits). Virgin doesn’t offer anything in my area either and I live central in a large city. So what Super Fast Broadband?

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    What's the point in having 'Super Fast' Broadband when our Govt. wants to censor the snot out of the Internet?

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    public money should not be used to subsidize the nimby villages. services require a population threshold. let them build houses in their area if they want to attract city style services. public money is for the poor and needy not the rich and greedy.

  • Comment number 15.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    I 'upgraded' to Fibre with BT and ended up paying less, if you can believe it. I've see no real difference in speed when visiting my usual sites, but downloading small video clips (e.g.on Beeb's iPlayer) is astonishingly fast by comparison. It would be even better if the optic cable came into the house and right up to my WiFi hub. I had visitors from the US a few months ago who were flabbergasted


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