New report reveals broadband outages have doubled in last year

A new report from Uswitch, reveals that broadband outages have doubled in the last year.

Sky News report that:

“Uswitch's report found 15% of people have been prevented from working due to disconnections, and 25% have been left without internet for almost a full week or more.

The top issues were supplier outages, router problems, and maintenance to external cables.

Uswitch said the number of people affected by outages had risen from about 12 million the previous year to 21.7 million over the last 12 months.”

The finding comes as Alyn Smith MP (SNP, Stirling) raised the issue of poor rural broadband in all four nations in Parliament.

He told MPs that good broadband connectivity is an essential part of everyday life:

“I think we can agree that broadband is not a “nice to have”; it is a necessity. It is the fourth utility. Covid has accelerated everything—it was the great accelerator. It has accelerated trends that were already there, such as people shopping online, doing their banking online and accessing Government services online, particularly as the Post Office seems to be more interested in closing branches than providing services. Banks are closing their branches with gay abandon, particularly in rural areas. That makes broadband more important for rural areas, and it makes joining up rural areas to good broadband even more imperative than it is for urban areas.”

He went on to say that:

“There is a moral aspect to all this. People working from home need good broadband. As we see more and more people expected to work from home—and I am fully in favour of that, for all sorts of positive reasons, such as work-life balance and fewer carbon emissions—people in rural areas are being excluded from that potential benefit, because they do not have the broadband they need.”

Responding to the criticism, the Minister for Data and Digital Infrastructure, Sir John Whittingdale, defended Project Gigabit which aims to address these issues. 

He said:

“Consider that in January 2019, gigabit coverage was 6%, and now—four years later—it is at 77%. That is an astonishing achievement. However, in a sense, the more we are successful in extending coverage, first, the more vocal are the complaints from the people who do not have it, which is perfectly understandable”

He concluded by reaffirming the Government’s commitment to rural areas:

“There will always be areas of the country where commercial roll-out is not viable, and it is in the first instance to address those elements that Project Gigabit was established. It includes local procurements, regional and cross-regional procurements, and the gigabit broadband voucher scheme. A large number of companies are now involved, and we are signing procurement contracts regularly. We have so far awarded 12 Project Gigabit contracts to improve digital connectivity in Cornwall, Cumbria, Norfolk, Suffolk, Hampshire and Northumberland, and we have a further 24 local and regional procurements under way.

“I was delighted a few weeks ago to visit Orford in Suffolk, where £100 million is being spent under Project Gigabit to extend coverage to another 80,000 premises. In Norfolk, £114 million is being spent to extend coverage to 62,000 premises. That is being mirrored across the country. As I said earlier, however, we are conscious that that will still leave some people outside the scope of those procurement packages, and they will obviously continue to press for coverage to be extended to them. As we extend coverage, the remaining premises will be, almost by definition, in harder-to-reach areas, so reaching them may require more innovative and inventive solutions, but the 100% target is a real target and we are confident that it can be achieved.”

Read the full report from Sky News here and the full debate in Hansard.


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