In May 2020, Ofcom published its annual report (you can read a summary with commentary on ISPreview, here) which suggested that the average broadband download rate in the UK was 64Mbps and the average upload speed 14Mbps. As with so many things, you get different figures from different sources. This report from Speedtest looked at global internet speeds in 2020 and claimed that the UK’s average download speed was about 81Mbps: this puts us a not very creditable 47th place with average speeds roughly similar to those in Estonia and Russia and some way behind countries with which the UK is often compared such as Germany, Spain, France and the USA. According to these figures, there are 17 countries whose average speed is more twice the UK’s.
For some residents and business owners, however, particularly in rural areas such as Upper Lambourn, speeds of 64Mbps or 81Mbps, or anything approaching these, are about an unattainable as a journey to the moon. Nor will it be any comfort for them to know that West Berkshire is, according to Howard Woollaston, WBC’s Executive Portfolio Holder for Internal Governance (and also Lambourn’s ward member), “near the top of the national league table in terms of Superfast coverage with levels of 96.2%.” There are still pockets of digital deprivation where trying to run a business and home-school children, as is now necessary, is effectively impossible. Over the last decade or so, various companies have agreed to complete that part of the network: for one reason or another, this has never happened. If one were to gather together all the documents, emails and meeting notes relating to this tangled story (and I know one person who has kept many of them) they would make a small book, although so far one without a happy ending.
However, two schemes, with government funding, are currently available which are designed to help people living in rural areas get better broadband. Note that the first requires that applications be made by the end of March 2021.
Rural Gigabit Voucher Scheme
Up to £1,500 per home and up to £3,500 is available for each small to medium size business (SME) to support the costs of installing gigabit-capable broadband. Funding is provided through the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme. Gigabit-capable broadband offers the fastest and most reliable speeds available of up to 1,000Mbps (1Gbps). Final speeds depend on the package purchased but the aim is to provide enough capacity for now and for the future.
To qualify for the scheme, you must:
- Live in a rural area;
- Be unable to get broadband speeds of 100Mbps;
- Apply as a group of two or more premises.
You must have applied for this scheme by 31 March 2021.
Universal Service Obligation
If you’re receiving 10Mbps or less, you may be eligible for the Universal Service Scheme. For more details and to check your postcode for eligibility, click here.