Newsletter - sign up here
Search Webster
Webster's pieces from The Oldie
Webster's Webwatch

The Internet Speed scandal

June 2015

The phrase “Postcode Lottery” is applied to much, but nowhere is it more relevant than when adssessing broadband speeds.  In fact, given that we claim to be an advanced, developed country, and that the technical, financial and legal barriers to a universal, consistent and high speed broadband service are minimal, the service we have is a disgrace.

Ofcom’s latest report showed that UK broadband speeds range from under 0.5 Mbit/s to over 30 Mbit/s; the major reason for the disparity was geography, but it’s not remoteness that is the problem; it’s often simply a measure of the local effort that has been applied.

What’s even more irritating is that the suppliers can advertise huge speeds with straight faces, but even if only 10% of their customers receive that speed, no advertising rule is broken.  It’s extraordinary; suppose only 10% of The Oldie’s subscribers received all the pages of the magazine, and all the others only got some, do you think we could continue?  I think not.

It has created a two-tier property market, especially for commercial premises.  A local farmer has converted some farm buildings into very comfortable offices with fabulous views, but he cannot let them until high speed internet is installed; and no date is forthcoming from the powers that be.

So who is to blame?  I think the fault lies with both the Government and Local Authorities who have failed to notice that good access to the Internet has become as important as having a phone line, and almost as vital as water, electricity and roads.  In other words, broadband is a utility, and needs the sort of investment and regulation that utilities receive. 

I have long said that if any government wants raise both spirits and wealth in this country it’s infrastructure that they should focus on, and at the moment the most obvious lack of investment and planning is evident in both broadband and the railways.  Both services are way behind the level a civilised country should expect, and both have the capacity to improve quality of life significantly for relatively modest cost.

If politicians want my vote on 7th May, let them make some sort of promise to sort this out.   

However, until then, there are one or two steps of your own you can try.  First, and most important, ask your current supplier if you are getting the best and fastest service they can deliver to your door.  Despite my grumblings they have been gradually improving the network, but have often not mentioned it to those whose lines are enhanced.  You’ll probably have to have a new router (the box that plugs into the telephone socket), possibly pay a slightly higher bill, and there will be a bit of setting up, but it should be pretty simple.

A more radical solution, but not for the faint hearted, is to change supplier.  Especially in towns, it may well be that one company has a better pipeline to your house than another; it’s worth investigating.

You should also make sure that you are distributing the service you have efficiently around the house; one way to achieve this is by using the electricity main, I have written about this before (click here and  click here).

 

Some more resources

 

To find out what speed you are currently getting, use the tester below - speeds will vary, but it will give you a good idea, and something to discuss with your supplier.

 

 

 

You might also want to have a quick look at this video put out by Ofcom, which also offers some sensible advice, and you can download a short leaflet from them by clicking here.