Superfast broadband - are we getting there?

 
Cables

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”

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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
    +2

    Comment number 93.

    Having been involved in a Govt funded project to bring broadband to rural areas in the North of England, several years ago, what was clear then and is now, you will never get fast broadband to rural communities unless you dig up large swathes of the countryside and install fibre. The copper infrastructure that exists at the moment is not designed for super fast speeds.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 92.

    Efficient and reliable broadband is (whether you like it or not) an increasing necessity in modern society and every person in this country has an equal right to it.

    Central government should be ensuring that this infrastructure is rolled out to every home. Imagine if this current situation were true of say electricity?

    Not as important? Maybe. Give it a few more years. I wouldn't bet on it!

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 91.

    Well Whoopie Woo – meanwhile if Forgotten Town, we are still waiting for BT to give us 50% of the bandwidth we are supposed to be getting with ADSL.

  • Comment number 90.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 89.

    While there's Data Capping then the "speed" of your interwebz connection is irrelevant.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 88.

    A friend in Devon has the so-called high speed internet through BT. She reports it is incredibly slow. So - what price high speed connections !!!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 87.

    Amazing how the article points out how BT's "independent" report states the UK is in the "lead" and another report shows the UK is outperforming other economies in a numbers of areas (not broadband I suspect).

    Check the statistics on speed tests online and you'll see the truth - the UK lags behind because big business in the UK wants you to pay for them to milk you.

    E.G. Speedtest.net = UK 26th

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 86.

    Superfast?? That's a joke. Living in a rural area, i'd be dead chuffed with fast-ish broadband!!!

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 85.

    >> 51.
    >> TheLastWord
    >> The money would be better spent on a new trident detergent. Ain't war great !

    That would certainly help us clean up, come World War 3!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 84.

    The only answer is competition and the only way of achieving that is to have a not for profit company controlling all the infrastructure including mobile masts.

    Now we have some homes with 2 fibre connections and several 4G providers, while others have none!

    Give every house 4G coverage and a fibre connection, and then let the commercial companies fight on a level playing field for customers.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 83.

    If a branch of a tree falls on a telephone line supplying twenty odd houses and it takes Openreach a week to put the cable back up as happened in our area this month then connection speed becomes slightly irrelevant.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 82.

    I live in council house, 10 years 3 homes.
    and you can ONLY get internet by the phone!
    they will not put cables to council homes.
    why?
    yes they do it to some council homes.
    so their are a Lot of homes in city's with NO fast internet.
    and I rented from a friend.
    the house is 150 years old.
    and it has No fast internet?
    so they are Not doing what they say.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 81.

    "Rural communities across the UK are getting access to superfast broadband for the first time as fibre cabinets are switched on."
    What a load of hype, 1% of UK households IN TOTAL have access to superfast broadband.
    Yet another failed government policy, what a disgrace.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 80.

    @77 Trytastic

    You are perfectly correct. I live 3 miles outside Chester in a rural dead spot. Given the increasing day to day importance of the internet & its services, I would never recommend anyone buy a rural property without first checking the Broadband speed. (assuming you want a fast connection!!). The biggest mistake I ever made.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 79.

    My business is 500m from a fibre enabled exchange in our town centre, BT tells me they will never upgrade our cabinet because it's not economically viable. Thanks for nothing as usual BT.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 78.

    I live in mildly rural Berkshire and we have no chance of BT Infinity in the next few years. In addition the cable companies are probably unaware that there are people who do not live in cities or towns. 4G is a dream or possibly nightmare.

    I am just relieved that Electricity and Water were nationalised when it was put in around here. Otherwise I fear we would still be using candles and a well.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 77.

    72/74, If you choose to live in rural areas, you take the rough with the smooth, One particular piece of rough is the lack of decent traditional boradband.

    Or you could have satellite broadband, 20 meg down, 8 meg up for £30 odd quid a month

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 76.

    Should we believe the hype on superfast broadband?

    Yes, its being installed just now by Santa Claus and his helpers in gumdrop house on lollipop lane

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 75.

    @Freetalk Yes it's right that fast internet does not necessarily mean you will have good latency, but the main thing lag/latency will affect is online games, where latency needs to be in the tens, not hundreds+ not even video chat or voice chat will be affected by a few hundred milliseconds of latency. Latency shouldn't make any difference to streams either.

  • rate this
    +20

    Comment number 74.

    On a good day I get 1Mb, though it can go as low as 250K. Why is so much money being spent on increasing the speed in cities from a whopping 50 to 60 Mb up to 80Mb? We rural uses pay just as much as city folk.
    Watching video is impracticable. I have signed up for CourseEra courses, but can't use it because the video is so slow. We have a 2-tier community in this country in so many ways.

 

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