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New-build houses in Cambridgeshire have some of the slowest broadband in the country

Monday, February 16th 2015 by Hannah Langston

Residents of a new housing development, just eight miles outside Cambridge, are struggling with internet speeds of less than 1Mbps.

Those living in the 300 homes on the Summers Field estate in Papworth Everard are unable to watch online video content from sites such as BBC iPlayer or YouTube or even surf the net seamlessly at peak times.

Local resident and software consultant Tom Pinnock moved to the area last summer and told Cable.co.uk the poor broadband affects his ability to work from home.

“If I need to download big files I have to go to the McDonald's across the road to use their wi-fi, or go to my mother-in-law’s house.

“I spoke to BT before moving in, they said we should get between 2-3Mbps – that sounded hideous compared to the speeds I had before in Basildon. However, with the BT router I get less than 1Mbps."

David Wilson Homes, part of Barratt Developments, began building the estate in 2011 and is due to complete work this spring.

“Considering 1Mbps was slow 15 years ago the developers must have known residents would get slow speeds," Mr Pinnock said.

“People have moved here for a better life but what we've gained in floor space we have lost in amenities.

“The sign in front of the development says ‘stylish and contemporary homes’ but they’re not contemporary if we can’t get broadband,” he added.

'Barely usable'

When Mr Pinnock and his family first enquired about the property, the on-site Barratt sales team told him the broadband was “not so bad”.

“But they’re not using it for video such as Netflix, or iPlayer,” Mr Pinnock argued.

“Watching the iPlayer, for example, has become a part of normal family life. Likewise, there are no newsagents around here so we need to go online to stay up to date.”

Another resident, automotive bodyshop manager Grant Smith, said his internet connection is “barely usable”.

“During the weekends the connection is often out for hours at a time which causes my partner a lot of issues.

“She is currently studying for a high level accountancy exam and has to study online with online lectures and tests. This often gets stopped half way through her lectures and she is helpless to carry on.”

Following a campaign led by Summers Field resident and ex-councillor Nick Clarke (Con, Fulbourne), Barratts paid for a BT Openreach cabinet to be installed in October, but are still waiting for BT to connect it.

Meanwhile, Virgin Media, which is trialling fibre-to-the-home broadband speeds of up to 200Mb in Papworth Everard village, has considered cabling the estate but has been reportedly been held up by developers who don't want the nearby roads dug-up.

However, residents are still none the wiser as to why their broadband is so slow.

Out of date broadband

“The biggest bugbear is that no one has accepted responsibility for the poor broadband connections,” said Mr Pinnock.

"I would have asked for a reduction on the house price if I had known how poor the broadband would be."

Mr Smith added: “From my point of view I want to futureproof my house and having basic ‘through the phone wire’ broadband is already out of date so the houses should have been built with fibre-to-the-home broadband to start with. It makes sense to get the (infra)structure in while possible.”

After approaching Barratt Developments for comment they pointed us to this previous statement: “We understand the importance to our customers of having effective telephone and internet connections and would like to confirm that we have provided all facilities required by BT Openreach to supply residents with these services.

“The actual service and speeds available are the responsibility of the service provider and we have met with BT Openreach to raise the issue.”

A spokesperson for BT said they are "waiting for the power company to confirm an installation date".

A Virgin Media spokesperson said the Summers Field estate was “on the radar” of its new-build team who are “having conversations with Barratt and exploring opportunities for upgrading the site".

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