WORCESTER-based wireless broadband specialist, Airband was shortlisted for the highly regarded Internet Service Providers Association 2017 awards. The awards follow the shake-up of the broadband industry by Ofcom’s Connected Nations Report in December 2016, which slammed major suppliers including BT. Since then Airband, along with other smaller independent suppliers, has been steadily building up its presence with a string of key projects across rural Devon, the South West and Wales.
Airband specialises in delivering better broadband connections for hard-to-reach and rural areas and bridging the gap between the digital ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’. The firm’s work on a ?4.6m scheme in Dartmoor and Exmoor national park and a series of ?multi-million schemes across the South West earmarked its place as a finalist in the awards. Airband recently won the tender for the Superfast Cymru Infill Project contract from the Welsh government to supply business premises in Cardiff, Newport and Swansea.
Initially, the firm is contracted to provide high speed broadband to 2,000 businesses as part of an estimated ?19m expansion to the original Superfast Cymru scheme.
“Poor broadband and low speed problems are just as real for many out-of-town industrial parks, as they are for rural farms and businesses,” said Airband founder and director Redmond Peel.
“In these areas, traditional fibre broadband deals are often slower and more restrictive – but it’s possible to bypass the fibre system and end up with some of the UK’s fastest broadband speeds,” he said.
Broadband speeds across north Cumbria and south west Scotland are among the worst in the country, according to new figures. A report by an influential group of MPs published today warns that millions of UK broadband connections may not reach a proposed minimum standard. The “Broadbad 2.0” report has found that as many as 6.7 million connections may not receive download speeds above the Government’s proposed minimum of 10 megabits per second (Mb/s).
In a list of Parliamentary constituencies the report says 48 per cent of connections in Carlisle are below the 10Mb/s proposed download speed. Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale in southern Scotland is not far behind in the list of the 20 worst areas, with 47 per cent. Figures for other local constituencies are 46.6 per cent of connections not meeting the proposed minimum speed in Penrith and the Border, 43 per cent in Copeland, 36.7 per cent across Workington, and 33.3 per cent in Barrow.
More than 50 MPs who are members of the British Infrastructure Group (BIG) are now calling for urgent improvements. The BIG of MPs want automatic compensation for families who do not get the internet speeds they pay for, with Ofcom urged to get tougher on broadband providers. They also want greater transparency between the take-up and availability of superfast broadband around the country.
Less than half of all UK connections are thought not to receive superfast speeds of 24 Mb/s, according to the group’s research. Ofcom previously found 1.4 million people have download speeds below 10 Mb/s, while the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said millions of people had not signed up to superfast broadband. Former Tory party chairman Grant Shapps, who chairs the group of MPs, said: “Although broadband is increasingly considered to be an essential utility, the quality of customer services has simply not caught up with demand.
“It is unacceptable that there are still no minimum standards in the UK telecoms sector to protect customers from protracted complaints procedures, and ensure that broadband providers are fully accountable to their customers.”
Analysis of download speed data recorded by Ofcom in 2015 and 2016 suggested 40.8 per cent of all broadband connections reached speeds above the threshold for superfast broadband. Ofcom figures in 2016 also found that more than three quarters of premises with standard broadband could get superfast broadband if they upgraded. The new cross-party report, backed by 57 MPs, says it is “unacceptable” Ofcom has not considered automatic compensation for households that consistently get a poor service below what they are paying for.
Ofcom’s voluntary code of practice with providers such as BT and Virgin Media commits them to provide accurate and transparent information on speeds, and allows customers to exit their contract without penalty if speeds fall below a minimum threshold. An Ofcom spokesman said: “We share concerns that broadband must improve, and we’re already taking firm, wide-ranging action to protect customers – including new plans for automatic compensation, faster repairs and installations, and ensuring providers commit to giving accurate speed information to customers.
“We also provide robust, comprehensive data on broadband take-up and availability, through regular reports and interactive consumer tools.”
This year’s Digital Economy Act set out a so-called universal service obligation across the country, which defined a minimum broadband download speed of 10 Mb/s. A DCMS spokesman said: “Almost 95 per cent of the UK can now get superfast broadband, but we know millions of homes and businesses have not yet chosen to upgrade.
“We want everyone to have access to fast broadband, and the universal service obligation will make sure that no-one is left behind.
“It’s a better offer than any compensation package as it places a legal obligation on providers to deliver the speeds that families and businesses need.”
Here is a list of the worst parliamentary constituencies for download speeds, with the percentage of connections below 10 Mb/s
1. Ross, Skye and Lochaber, Scotland 65.6
2. Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Scotland 63.7
=3. Argyll and Bute, Scotland 61.7
=3. Orkney and Shetland, Scotland 61.7
5. Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, Wales 58.2
6. Montgomeryshire, Wales 58
7. Kingston upon Hull East, Yorkshire and the Humber 56.8
8. Ceredigion, Wales 55.1
North Herefordshire, West Midlands 54.9
10. Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, Scotland 52.2
11. Dwyfor Meirionnydd, Wales 50.9
12. Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, Wales 49.8
=13. Brecon and Radnorshire, Wales 48.9
=13. Hereford and South Herefordshire, West Midlands 48.9
15. Carlisle, North West 48
16. Midlothian, Scotland 47.5
=17. Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey, Scotland 47.3
Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney, Wales 47.3
19. Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale, Scotland 47
=20. Central Devon, South West 46.8
Torridge and West Devon, South West 46.8
The South Gloucestershire Council in England, which is already working with Openreach (BT) to extend “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) coverage to 97% of the region by December 2017, has signed a new ?3m contract that will benefit a further 4,300 premises (3,800 via FTTP).123
The deal, which is supported by funding of ?2m from the central Government’s Broadband Delivery UK4 programme and ?1m from the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), aims to complete the extended roll-out in South Gloucestershire by the end of 2018 and this should take local coverage of “superfast broadband” very close to universal levels (currently it’s already at around 95%). The deployment is expected to use a lot more of Openreach5‘s ultrafast Fibre-to-the-Premise (FTTP6) broadband technology than before, although the operator will also continue to roll-out their slower hybrid Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC7) service in a number of areas. Work to provide the service will start later this year.
Cllr John Goddard, Cabinet Member for Corporate Resources, said:
“So far, more than 20,000 homes and businesses have been able to access fibre broadband as part of our rollout across South Gloucestershire. We have always said that we are committed to providing an improved broadband service to as much of the district as possible and this latest investment could see up to 99 per cent of premises covered when combined with the commercial programme. Once complete, thousands more homes and businesses in more rural areas are set to benefit from a service that would not have been available without the council’s continued efforts to bring about these improvements.”
Matt Hancock, Minister of State for Digital, said:
“The transformation of the digital landscape in South Gloucestershire to date has been tremendous, but there’s still more to be done.
I’m delighted that another 4,300 local homes and businesses are now going to benefit from a faster and more reliable broadband service, ensuring they can get the fast and reliable connectivity they need, both now and for the future.”
Some of the communities set to benefit in the latest phase of the programme include several rural areas not previously covered by the existing roll-out and remaining communities from the previous two phases, including: Almondsbury, Alveston, Aust, Bitton, Bromley Heath, Cold Ashton, Cromhall, Dodington, Downend, Doynton, Falfield, Frampton Cotterell, Hanham Abbots, Hanham, Hawkesbury, Horton, Iron Acton, Kingswood, Marshfield, Olveston, Patchway, Pilning, Severn Beach, Pucklechurch, Rangeworthy, Rockhampton, Soundwell, Siston, Sodbury, Tormarton, Tortworth, Westerleigh, Wick, Abson, Wickwar, Winterbourne and Yate.
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- ^ South Gloucestershire Council (www.southglos.gov.uk)
- ^ Openreach (www.openreach.co.uk)
- ^ FTTP (www.ispreview.co.uk)
- ^ Broadband Delivery UK (www.gov.uk)
- ^ Openreach (www.openreach.co.uk)
- ^ FTTP (www.ispreview.co.uk)
- ^ FTTC (www.ispreview.co.uk)
- ^ South Gloucestershire Broadband (www.southglos.gov.uk)
- ^ Fastershire (www.fastershire.com)