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When will the UK's broadband postcode lottery end?

Friday, July 18th 2014 by Cable.co.uk
Broadband postcode lottery still exists (Thinkstock/Hemera)
Despite the government's rollout plans, there are still large areas of the UK stuck with slow broadband.

It seems like barely a day goes by without members of one of the UK's many rural communities complaining that their area is being overlooked by the government's broadband rollout.

Communications Minister Ed Vaizey told the House of Commons earlier this month that the coalition is upgrading its coverage goals. The new target is the delivery of superfast connectivity to 100 per cent of homes and businesses across the country. But this vision won't become a reality until 2017 – if it's even successful at all – and this has left scores of rural residents forced to play the waiting game.

However, a lack of decent broadband access isn't just a problem that blights our picturesque villages and hamlets; some of our biggest cities are struggling too.

It emerged this week that swathes of Sheffield – one of England's eight largest regional cities, with a population of more than half a million – look set to miss out on the government's flagship Broadband Delivery UK programme.

The four councils that make up South Yorkshire are ready to put pen to paper on a £20 million deal that will see superfast speeds rolled out across the county, but the centre of Sheffield hasn't been included in the plan. In fact, the area will be left without any fibre optic infrastructure after US firm Zayo Group stepped in to purchase assets from the failed Digital Region network, which currently serves the city but will be switched off in August.

In this day and age, when the importance of digital technology is recognised by all, it seems absurd that the quality of broadband you receive is still very much dependent on your postcode.

What's particularly frustrating is that far larger countries with much bigger populations seem to be dealing better with the issue of slow – or even non-existent – broadband. 

Look at the US, for example. Its land mass is about 40 times greater than the UK, but in many ways it's a huge distance ahead in terms of broadband provision. 

Google has plans to roll out dedicated ultrafast fibre optic networks in 34 major urban areas across the US. Perhaps that sort of large-scale private investment from a company other than BT is what Britain needs to achieve the necessary improvements to its broadband landscape.

Comments (1)

Andrew Skipsey
20th July 2014

Without a significant subsidy, Fibre to the premises is impossible to justify. Couple this with BT probably doing the right thing where Fibre to The cabinet does not justify, particularly where just a small percentage of a districts population would sign up to the cheapest Superfast Deals I believe it will be some time before Superfast will get to that 100%. Plus it's not just rural areas where there are long copper runs from green boxes making it impossible for some residents to get Superfast. There will always be not spots I believe - unfortunately.

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