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People without superfast broadband are creating their own networks

If you re stuck in the kind of broadband black spot where downloading a film is a weeklong operation then perhaps it s time to start digging. It s bloody hard work doing it yourself but now we ve got world-beating broadband, said Simon Peach, leader of a scheme which has finally delivered unprecedented connectivity to a rural parish in North Yorkshire that was abandoned by telecom giants and policymakers. In Clapham-cum-Newby volunteers laid ducts across windswept hills and fields and now it enjoys a level of high-speed fibre broadband that isolated communities from the Shetlands to Somerset only dream of. Ofcom s 2016 Communications report suggests Britain remains on course to achieve the Government s ambition of universal superfast broadband. The report said the numbers of superfast broadband connections (those providing actual speeds of at least 30 megabits per second, or Mbps, according to the EU s definition) rose by two million (28.7 per cent) to 9.2 million during the year, equivalent to 37.1 per cent of all connections.

The average speed of a UK fixed broadband connection is 28.9Mbps, up from 22.8Mbps in November 2014.

People Without Superfast Broadband Are Creating Their Own Networks

But ministers admit that plans to deliver superfast broadband will halt at 95 per cent of the UK by the end of the year, rising to 97 per cent by 2019, because it is considered too expensive to reach the final 500,000 homes in largely rural communities. As a consequence, people operating businesses from home, denied a basic, reliable connectivity, are forced to rent expensive space in urban centres or give up.

Basic 10Mbps target: woefully inadequate

Around one million premises, in areas including East Yorkshire, Devon, Cumbria and the Cotswolds, will have to settle for a maximum speed of 10Mbps, the legal right which the Government has settled on as its minimum Universal Service Obligation by 2020. Communities can request a connection up to a reasonable cost threshold . A government consultation document argued it was unlikely that most residents of remote areas would want speeds of 24Mbps, the Government s superfast definition, even if that option is made available to them .

The basic 10Mbps target is deemed woefully inadequate given the increasing bandwith requirements of a society using multiple connected devices to stream television and play computer games in the home.

9%
The proportion of connections with a headline speed of up to 30Mbit/s or higher rose by nine percentage points to 42% in 2015

The average fixed broadband line used 82GB of data per month in 2015 a 41 per cent increase from June 2014, the Ofcom report found. There have been delays in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) unit, which has handed out 1.7bn of subsidies to BT to help make rural superfast broadband economically viable. The watchdog attributed the sluggish connections to long line lengths and old copper wiring, giving more ammunition to critics of BT s Openreach division, which owns most of the UK s telecoms infrastructure. BT s network uses copper for the final few hundred metres of the connection, slowing down speeds.

BT preventing other networks expanding

It is BT s underinvestment, because it is seeking to protect its outmoded legacy copper network, which is preventing the UK from building the type of national fibre-optic networks expanding rapidly across many other countries around the world, Sky and Talk Talk, two rival telecommunications firms, claim. BT has returned more than 250m of public subsidies after take-up proved higher than expected during the superfast rollout, which undermined the argument that it was not commercially viable to target rural areas. But BT s critics claim it is stifling competition and has underinvested in its network, instead choosing to target its resources on expensive football rights.

Around four million homes across the UK have received superfast internet connections from BT since the BDUK subsidy scheme began in 2010. The telecoms giant says it is migrating from copper to fibre solutions and will connect 12 million homes and business to superfast broadband by 2020.

2 million
The number of superfast broadband connections rose by 2.0m (28.7%) to 9.2 million

Delays are often due to local councils taking too long to negotiate contracts with BT or the high charges demanded by farmers to lay cable across their land, which deters operators.

95% of UK to have superfast broadband by 2017

Andrew Ferguson, of Think Broadband, the independent advisory service, said: We are expecting the UK to hit a 95 per cent superfast coverage target by the end of 2017. This looks achievable based on the current rates of delivery, but this will still leave some not-spots where speeds are less than ideal.

To those who have not been helped yet a rapid rollout is no use to them and it is the uncertainty over future rollout plans that creates lots of anger.

That frustration is now being turned into positive action in areas like Clapham-cum-Newby.

Some of the most rural areas have taken the task into their own hands building their own fibre networks, Mr Ferguson said.

We are also seeing an increasing number of communities partfunding their own upgrades via Openreach who have a community engagement programme now. He added: Additionally there are other commercial operators such as Gigaclear in the rural broadband space, Hyperoptic bringing ultrafast speeds to new apartment blocks in the cities and IFNL Independent Fibre Networks Limited working with an increasing number of newbuild estates.

History of Broadband in the UK

March 1992: Dial-up internet introduced by Pipex. May 2004: November announces service December declares for superfast to 90 per

May 2016: superfast March 2000: Telewest launches home ADSL (max speed 512 kbps).

January 2002: New BT CEO Ben Verwaayen sets target of one million broadband customers in 2003 and five million by 2006. September 2003: 80 per cent UK broadband coverage achieved. May 2004: 90 per cent coverage.

November 2015: David Cameron announces a 10Mbps universal service obligation. December 2015: Government declares supporting investment for superfast broadband coverage to 90 per cent of UK by early 2016. May 2016: 90 per cent of UK has superfast broadband.

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