Friday, 30 January 2015 11:02

MPs criticise slow broadband rollout

Written by  Ruralcity Media
MPs criticise slow broadband rollout

MPs have clashed with civil servants and telecom bosses over the delivery of better broadband to rural areas.

A Public Accounts Committee hearing examining the government's progress on delivering superfast rural broadband was held on Wednesday (28 January).

The session quizzed BT and civil servants over the rollout cost and explored whether the government had done enough to promote greater competition for its rollout programme.

A full transcript of the meeting is available.

Despite £1.7bn of public money, committee chair Margaret Hodge said many rural residents and businesses were still not able to access superfast broadband.

A recent survey by the Federation of Small Businesses found that only 16% of small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) in rural areas had access to superfast broadband.

Half of SMEs were dissatisfied with the overall quality, and only 28% are satisfied with their upload speed, according to the survey.

Ms Hodge said: "That is an incredibly depressing and abysmal picture."

She asked: "What will you do about it?

Broadband Delivery UK is spending £790m on its superfast (rural) broadband programme, which aims to improve superfast broadband provision to premises across the UK.

In response to questioning, BDUK rural broadband lead Andrew Field said: "One of our key priorities is to ensure that small businesses in rural areas get access to superfast broadband."

He added: "The target that we have been set is to maximise the coverage as fast as we can, using the funding that we have got available."

The Public Accounts Committee published reports on the rural broadband programme in September 2013 and April 2014.

These reports raised concerns over lack of published information on BT's plans for superfast broadband coverage, the availability and transparency of cost data.

It also highlighted a lack of competition secured throughout the programme.

Those two issues were highlighted again during the hearing.

Ms Hodge said: It is completely incomprehensible to me, and wrong, that there should not be absolute transparency over the costs, so that we can all see whether or not there is value."

People in this conversation

  • Guest (Lionel William Frazer)


    Absolutely agree. 9 miles outside of Taunton and every time we near the deadline date for improved Broadband, the
    date is pushed back, not just by weeks, but 6-12 months.
    Absolutely useless.

  • Guest (John McInerney)


    This foot dragging over decent rural broadband access is a disgrace - but nobody seems able to do anything about it or get a serious, meaningful response from BDUK, BT and others. All we get is platitudes about what their 'priorities' and 'targets' are but no commitment or apparent realisation of the difficulties we face. We are 5 miles out of Tiverton (where residents get 20+Mbs) and we are hard put to achieve 0.5Mbs - and less if it's raining! Critical problem for many of us.

  • Guest (Peter Logan)

    In reply to: Guest (John McInerney) Report

    It appears to be happening across the UK, but nobody will except responsibility. We are all banging our heads against a brick wall - come on governemt lets have some action!

  • It is not just in rural areas that there is a problem. Some properties, including ours and, possibly, the town council offices, in Grange will not get SFB for some time. While we wait the quality of our existing broadband connections degrade. Speeds collapse and connection is lost at irregular intervals, often several timed a day.

  • It is not just in rural areas that problems exist. In Grange a number of residedents and businesses, including ourselves and, possibly, the town council offices, will not be able to get SFB for some time. Apparently it's not worth their while despite the fact I have been a broadband customer from the start. The cabinets are in place and some have a super-fast connection while others are suffering from a slow service that is degrading rapidly!

    from Grange-over-Sands, Cumbria, UK
  • Guest (Robert Clegg)


    We are a small firm based in S. Norfolk. We rely on Broadband to receive and send artwork. Some of the files are heavy and it takes so long to get anywhere. I gather various towns in Norfolk have better Broadband but the many villages are are not likely to get it if at all.
    We pushed for info and were told we came off the wrong 'bin' and there are no known plans for us.
    Frustrating is not a good description of the situation.

    from IP22 2TE, United Kingdom
  • I am 3 miles from a 'high speed' broad band box, but can only receive 1meg upload & 1.5meg of download speed & limited Bandwidth. Microsoft updates, costs me band width and lock up due to slowness. 1 mile away a small council estate can receive 20meg of speed and unlimited bandwidth. How can I run a web site, let alone a small business. Farmers, businesses, houses & schools in rural areas suffer. The Government have failed. I live in Northants the middle of England.

    from Great Addington, Kettering, Northamptonshire NN14 4BL, UK
  • Guest (Brian Kennish)


    It must be frustrating to be so near yet so far from a fibre connection. Here in Cumbria we have numerous villages
    that have no fibre within 15 miles. You have to understand that the programme of improvement that the government has embarked on takes time to complete and someone always has to be last. I am not a member of any political party and appreciate the fact that at least something is being done to improve broadband communication.

    from Ravenglass, Ravenglass, Cumbria CA18, UK
  • Guest (Brian Northall)


    All comments above relate to relatively isolated areas, which I can understand may have BB problems, but I live in the middle of a heavily populated area, surrounded by the M1, A1M, A14, A6, A5 and many other fast highways. About 25 minutes from Cambridge, Northampton, Peterborough, Leicester and Birmingham. If we cannot obtain a decent service, there is little hope for seriously rural areas as mentioned in previous messages.

  • Guest (Brian Kennish)


    I wonder how many people are aware that even if fibreoptic superfast broadband is within reach of their property they will not be automatically be connected to it. BT are counting the number of people who are connecting to the new fibre optic infrastructure for contract reasons. You have to apply to your ISP to be connected and pay a fee otherwise you just remain on copper.

    from Ravenglass, Ravenglass, Cumbria CA18, UK

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