A quadriplegic man says not having fibre broadband has forced him to miss work opportunities – and could limit his access to medical treatment in the future. Stuart Turner helps test robots and computer operating systems as an accessibility consultant, and speaks at events all over the world. Because of his disability, he does most of this from his home in Todmorden, West Yorkshire, so relies heavily on the internet.
Mr Turner (pictured) told Cable.co.uk his current broadband connection allows him to run various websites including inventability.net, which aims to help other people with disabilities. But the other parts of his job require either a lot of bandwidth or a much better upload speed than he has at the moment. “There have been a number of times where my connection just wasn’t good enough to give a speech, for example in a country on the other side of the world,” said Mr Turner.
“I can always see them because my download is reasonably okay, it’s the upload speed is the problem.” He said he was booked to speak in the ‘rehabilitation space’ at a large conference but simply didn’t have the bandwidth to allow telepresence – the use of virtual reality technology to attend distant events or to control devices remotely. “Obviously I couldn’t travel there because of my disability and if I can’t use telepresence now I can’t do the presentation,” he said.
“I also help in the testing of telepresence robots which use quite a lot of bandwidth, and as I don’t have a huge amount of bandwidth [it] limits the types of robots I can help test.” Mr Turner is also anticipating new uses for digital technology in the coming years and fears that with his current set-up, he will miss out.
Virtual hospital visits
“In the not too distant future, I will be able to visit my consultants at the hospital using telepresence, but I won’t be able to do that if I don’t have the bandwidth to sustain a decent connection. And that would necessarily limit my access to medical treatment.
“I would obviously still be able to go to the hospital but that would involve ambulances, drivers and a lot of money. Telepresence will save the NHS an absolute fortune but one thing it absolutely relies upon is decent bandwidth.” Mr Turner said fibre was originally promised for his street in May 2014 but he is now looking at May 2017 at the earliest.
“The rest of the town has fibre, we just seem to live in a four or five-street blackspot near the edge of town,” he said. “As far as I know, fibre is available at the cabinet nearest to me but for some reason they can’t or won’t activate the connection to my house.” An Openreach spokesperson said: “Nine out of ten homes and businesses can order superfast broadband, and our engineers continue to roll out the service to thousands more premises each week.
“It’s not possible to upgrade everyone at the same time but we’re doing our best to reach Mr Turner’s property as quickly as possible. His home is included in our commercial rollout plans. “Mr Turner can monitor our progress on the Openreach Where & When checker.”
Why do we need your postcode?
Once you enter your postcode, Cable.co.uk will perform a live lookup and check all the available providers in your area.
This ensures you receive accurate information on the availability of providers and packages in your area.
Your information is safe with us.
We won’t share your postcode with anyone.
Superfast broadband is a distant dream for many rural businesses, a Huddersfield man has claimed. A Shepley man who runs his company from home has challenged broadband providers to ensure that businesses in outlying areas of Huddersfield get faster broadband speeds to put them on a level playing field with businesses in towns and cities. Karl Ward, of Surefoot Systems UK Ltd, which supplies anti-slip treatments for floors, said high-tech fibre had been installed from the Kirkburton exchange to roadside junction boxes in his area – but that old copper wire ran from the junction box to individual addresses.
“If you are on copper wiring you can lose internet connection altogether and the more people ‘jump’ on the system the slower it gets,” he said. Mr Ward, whose Marsh Lane home is 2.5km away from the fibre-enabled junction box, said he had solved the problem by fitting a satellite dish, but said: “Before that, I was losing connections six to 10 times a day. I couldn’t send out invoices or do internet banking because the internet was down.”
Openreach employs more than 100 new staff – and wants more female engineers! Mr Ward claimed lack of a superfast connection had deterred at least one person from moving their business to Shepley. adding: “People are starting to say ‘I can’t run a business from that postcode area’.” He said: “We were supposed to be getting superfast broadband, which is a minimum of 15 to 18mbps.
We were getting nowhere near that. “We were being charged for a speed that we were not getting. I don’t think 8mbps is superfast, but if you ask anyone in the internet world what speed superfast is, they cannot tell you.
There’s no speed quoted.” Dewsbury MP Paula Sherriff raised the issue on Mr Ward’s behalf with Matt Hancock, Minister for Digital and Culture.
Paula Sherriff MP
Replying to her, Mr Hancock said the government was committed to a new broadband Universal Service Obligation to ensure all premises got access to broadband at a minimum speed of 10Mbps. The government had allocated more than ?11.5m to upgrade broadband across West Yorkshire while local bodies had also contributed.
But he conceded that speeds could be slower depending on distances from the junction box. Alan Hulthen, of Openreach, the telecoms business installing fibre broadband, told the MP that Fibre to the Cabinet (FFTC) technology had “line length limitations”. He said: “If the distance from the premises to the fibre cabinet is greater than 1.5km then the fibre broadband signal will get weaker before failing altogether.
It’s possible that some constituents may well have a fibre broadband product, but due to the distance they are from the street cabinet, they are not able to get superfast broadband.
That wouldn’t be a fault as such, but a limitation of the FTTC service.”
MORE businesses in the district are to benefit from the second phase of superfast broadband in West Yorkshire as the project to provide faster speeds continues. Superfast West Yorkshire is a partnership between the five West Yorkshire local authorities and York, and it is expected that more than 98 per cent of homes and businesses in the area will have access to fibre broadband by the end of June 2018 as a result. The first phase saw key parts of Bradford included in the ?21.96 million project which reached 67,500 premises in total.
Now the second phase, worth ?19.5m, includes Bradford, Leeds, Calderdale and Wakefield, as before, as well as the addition of Kirklees and York. In recent months new areas to benefit from the faster speeds are Birstall1, Yeadon2 and Rawdon3, as well as more fibre enabled cabinets for Pudsey4 and Silsden5. The second phase investment is being used to used to improve coverage and access to superfast fibre broadband across West Yorkshire over the next 18 months.
Locations expected to be included in this phase of the roll out include business parks, inner city and suburban areas not currently served by a fibre broadband network. Mike Cartwright of Bradford Chamber6 of Commerce said: “Businesses are calling out for high-speed broadband and better mobile connectivity to be rolled out as soon as possible.
“These are now essential aspects of good business activity, as much as they are in family life.
“Poor broadband will hamper communications and business opportunities and therefore act as a drag-factor on the economic prospects of the district.
“We therefore welcome more upgrades and conversions in Bradford at the earliest opportunity to avoid that happening.”
By the end of the two phases more than 100,000 premises are expected to have access to fibre broadband. Earlier this year West Yorkshire Combined Authority, a collaboration between the five authorities in the region, consulted on new areas without next generation access which could become part of the project as funds are reinvested.
White areas, as they are known, cover a number of Bradford postcode areas, including some in the city centre, as well as more rural areas in the district.