THE YORKSHIRE region’s best and worst broadband speeds are on either side of the Humber Estuary, figures have revealed. On the north bank of the Humber, parts of Hull are among the worst-served areas in Britain for superfast broadband, with only around one in four homes able to connect. But across the water, Grimsby is one of the best served – with fast speeds available to 98 per cent of homes.
The figures are revealed in a breakdown of broadband availability in each of the region’s parliamentary constituencies. The figures, compiled by Sheffield Heeley MP Louise Haigh, show Yorkshire has the lowest download speed of any English region – an average of 34.6 megabits per second (Mbps) compared to a UK average of 37.8 and a high of 40.6 in the South East. In the Yorkshire and Humber region, East Hull has the lowest penetration of superfast broadband, which is defined as 30Mbps or above, followed by West and North Hull.
Neighbouring Beverley also fares poorly, with Haltemprice, Penistone, the Don and Rother Valleys and Dewsbury all falling below 75 per cent penetration. At the other end of the table, Leeds, Sheffield, Huddersfield, Bradford, Scunthorpe and Halifax are among the areas with above-average availability. Download the data in full (MS Excel format, 20kb)
You’d get better broadband in Poland The release of the figures coincides with research that suggests eight out of ten consumers are “duped” by misleading broadband speeds. The comparison site Cable.co.uk said 80 per cent of 2,000 customers it interviewed thought the way speeds were advertised was misleading, with 58 per cent finding them “very misleading”.
The Advertising Standards Authority has called for a change to the way broadband speeds are advertised, and its sister organisation, the Committee of Advertising Practice, is due to publish a report later this year. Dan Howdle, of Cable.co.uk, said: “Broadband remains the only service you can buy without knowing what it is you’re actually going to get. The current system is a lucky dip where everyone pays the same no matter what mystery item they ultimately pull out.”
- ^ Yorkshire has the lowest download speed of any English region (www.yorkshirepost.co.uk)
- ^ Download the data in full (MS Excel format, 20kb) (www2.yorkshiretoday.co.uk)
- ^ Tech Talk: Where to get Yorkshire’s best broadband (www.yorkshirepost.co.uk)
- ^ Superfast South Yorkshire?
You’d get better broadband in Poland(www.yorkshirepost.co.uk)
- ^ Cable.co.uk (www.cable.co.uk)
New multi-million pound investment to deliver superfast broadband to thousands of extra homes in connectivity ‘not-spots’ will not go far enough to resolve the “unacceptable” imbalance of service in urban and rural areas, critics have claimed. Culture Secretary Karen Bradley has announced that around 600,000 extra homes and businesses in the hardest-to-reach parts of the UK will benefit from the ?440m pledge. The investment, as part of the Broadband Delivery UK programme (BDUK), consists of ?150m in savings from “careful contract management” and ?292m released through a clawback system that re-invests money when people take up superfast connections under the scheme.
But South Yorkshire MP Louise Haigh said the funds do nothing to address price discrepancies which are hindering take up in rural areas, while other critics claimed the copper wiring used in some areas by BT Openreach to deliver faster speeds is already outdated and that rural communities should be able to influence the way in which better connectivity is delivered. Sheffield Heeley MP Ms Haigh, who is Labour’s digital economy spokeswoman, said: “Additional investment in our broadband network is welcome but the announcement is not going to get us anywhere near the level of coverage we need.
“There are still significant issues around take-up with BDUK and too many people in rural areas are still paying the same for 1mbps as 100mbps elsewhere. We still have a long way to go.”
Ministers set up the BDUK project to provide superfast broadband to 95 per cent of the UK by December next year.
Around 1.5m homes and businesses have signed up for super-fast connections in areas where Government has subsidised the roll-out. In Yorkshire, the take-up rate is 31 per cent. The ?292m figure includes ?133m allocated for regions around the UK, with ?13.6m to be spent in Yorkshire.
Professor Will Stewart, vice-president of the Institution of Engineering and Technology, said the UK needs a “joined-up approach” for universal superfast broadband which involves converging fibre broadband and local wireless infrastructure instead of relying on old copper systems still in use in some areas. He said: “Ultimately, the Government should invest in a ‘gold standard’ solution using fibre and wireless technology to give the UK a futureproof broadband infrastructure that will enable the UK to become a global leader in communications networks.”
According to Dr Charles Trotman, rural business adviser at the Country Land and Business Association, the next two years are crucial in “cementing the end of the digital divide that continues to hold back the rural economy from fulfilling its potential”. He said: “Providing communities with a voice and stake in how they are connected will be crucial to ensuring the right investments are made in this area.”
Sarah Lee, head of policy at the Countryside Alliance, added: “It’s vitally important that these eye-catching numbers and the Government’s promises are translated into concrete results for people in rural communities who currently feel extremely let down by the poor provision of superfast broadband in their communities.”
A recent Ofcom report showed there are 960,000 premises in rural areas still without access to download speeds above 10mbps.
“Addressing this unacceptable imbalance in coverage should at the forefront of the Government’s digital agenda,” Ms Lee said.
When we sold our house recently, our buyer asked all the usual questions. How old was the boiler, what were the local schools like and how much did it cost to heat the place? Then he inquired about an issue probably more important to ease of everyday living than any of the above – how fast was the broadband speed? I answered him honestly. I rely on the internet to make my living, and I have two very tech-savvy children, so I pulled out all the stops over the years to make sure that our internet was fast as humanly possible. This involved a byzantine arrangement of cables and receivers and boosters which gave the signal every chance it could get.
Without it, we would have struggled to receive anything fast enough to load up Google in the living room, never mind “live stream” YouTube clips or films. I’m not surprised then to hear that as few as 10 per cent of British people are receiving the broadband speeds advertised by providers such as BT, Sky and TalkTalk. This means that anything up to 15 million households suffer frustratingly slow access – if they can get access at all – to the internet, email, and video-streaming services such as Netflix and the BBC’s iPlayer. It’s all down to the grand claims made in those exciting advertisements which promise the world at our fingertips and deliver a blue circle on our screen in an endless loop instead.
Urged on by complaints from consumer group Which?, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) found that companies can promote broadband packages by promising customers download speeds of “up to” 10 or 20 megabits per second (Mbps). However, few of us realise that this claim is allowed even if just 10 per cent of customers can technically achieve this speed. Obviously, most people who sign up to a service offering “up to 10mbps” expect to receive just that. However, the ASA found that a staggering nine out of 10 may not. Would we accept this level of service from anything else? If our washing machine only worked at a tenth of its capacity, or we could watch just 90 per cent of programmes on our televisions, would this be OK? I think not.
That’s why we can’t afford to simply shrug our shoulders and accept rubbish broadband as an inevitable fact of 21st century life. It is absolutely vital. Not just for domestic harmony and happy children, but for conducting all manner of personal administration, and most crucially for the growth of business and commerce. I know people wanting to relocate their operations from London who have vetoed a whole list of provincial towns and villages because they simply can’t get the broadband they need to work efficiently. In our region this is especially important.
Study after study has shown that poor provision of broadband is having a hugely detrimental effect on the economy. There was even a claim by Sheffield Chamber of Commerce earlier this year that broadband speeds in Yorkshire’s second-biggest city were lagging behind those across Europe, offering less than half the speed of villages in Poland and Romania. The reasons behind all of this are as murky and mind-boggling as the (online, of course) instructions for setting up a new router. We’ve been promised ultra-fast broadband around Sheffield for years now, but the roll-out has been beset by delays and funding problems. Super Fast South Yorkshire, the ?28m project to roll out fibre broadband across Sheffield, Barnsley, Doncaster and Rotherham now says it plans to have fibre access to 98 per cent of homes and businesses by 2018/9.
I wish them luck with that. However, meanwhile, those in charge of infrastructure and the internet service providers have a lot of work to do to keep paying customers happy and online. We must not be held as hostages to advertisements which hide the tedious reality in clever words, celebrity voice-overs and glossy promotional campaigns.
Companies which persist must be held to account. The ASA is entirely right to do its worst. However, there is a role, too, for government to play. Not just in ensuring that there is clear chain of Ministerial command in charge of broadband provision across the country, but in taking on the fact that the vast majority of the British population cannot rely 100 per cent on the internet. I know we have a “digital Minister”, Matt Hancock, the Conservative MP for West Suffolk. But poor and patchy provision seems to have been totally overlooked by every Government department which insists on directing individuals towards doing their business in a virtual world. Whether it’s council tax or income tax returns, child benefit claims or television licences, unless you have access to the internet you might as well be living in another galaxy.
This alienates millions of might not even own a laptop or tablet, never mind pay a monthly fortune out to an internet Service Provider. Therefore, I would like those who are driving this online revolution forward to accept that there is a massive disconnect between what they would like to happen and what is actually happening. Or not.