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A Guide to Rural Broadband

Living in the country has its upsides: cleaner air, quieter surroundings, and a generally more relaxed pace of life to name but a few. One of the downsides, however, is the frequent lack of access to reliable high-speed internet. But what exactly are the roadblocks, and is there anything that you can do to get a better connection?

In this
guide:

Why is broadband in the countryside so slow?

Broadband connection speeds outside of heavily populated urban areas are generally worse for the number of reasons. Population density plays a large part in this - if you need to connect a city then all the houses are very close to one another, the opposite is almost always the case in rural areas. Buildings are further away from each other, meaning that one street cabinet can’t connect as many homes, and longer cables are needed, which makes the connection slightly worse.

Some homes are also on what is known as exchange only lines, this means that a house is connected directly to the exchange rather than a street cabinet, such places will therefore be missed out by the fibre rollout.

Why doesn’t rural broadband get upgraded?

The main reason that rural communities don’t have access to the same infrastructure as those in the city essentially comes down to the bottom line – it’s more profitable for ISPs to connect densely populated urban areas. If a large internet provider such as Virgin has the choice between accessing 500 customers or 5,000 with the same upfront cost to them, they will go with the latter. The lay of the land provides another problem. Uneven hilly terrain, farmland and isolated locations mean that in order to build the necessary infrastructure to connect rural houses, a company must spend a disproportionate amount of money when compared with their return.

The cost of updating old technology as well as unforeseen costs such as the time it takes to send out technicians all factor in and explain why it has taken so long for high speed internet to reach many parties of the UK.

When I will get high speed internet in my area?

This is a difficult question to answer and the answer will of course depend on where you actually are. That being said, in 2017 the UK reached 95% connectivity nationwide, and has put in place a universal service obligation which means from 2020, all citizens will have the legal right to request high speed internet access. To encourage this, the government will subsidise installation costs in certain areas, if you meet certain criteria.

What is being done to improve rural internet connectivity?

One way that the government has tried to kick start investment in broadband services across the UK is through the Local Full Fibre Networks Programme. This scheme is designed to entice investment in both rural and urban areas across the UK. A £190m challenge fund was launched in November 2017, backing local connectivity projects that have the potential to kickstart commercial investment in installing fibre infrastructure. Two separate funds of £95m were also released for local authorities to bid on, the first batch was allocated in March 2018 with the second wave of funding to be distributed to successful applicants this year.

The government also launched a Gigabit Voucher Scheme in March 2018 worth £67m. These ‘vouchers’ can be used by local communities and businesses to help mitigate the installation costs of implementing faster connections. Applications are made by individuals or small businesses through designated suppliers in each area, and successful applicants receive vouchers which are then used to mitigate the costs of upgrades in the area.

What can I do to improve my broadband connection?

If you have money lying around then BT is often willing to get your house connected to high speed internet, the downside is that it can be very expensive and in many instances installations costs and exceed £1,000. If, like many people, you don’t just have £1,000 lying around, then consider one of the following options:

  • Mobile Broadband: Mobile broadband packages use 4G networks to connect your devices to the internet, usually using USB dongles. The issue here is that many areas with poor internet connectivity also don’t have great 4G coverage.
  • Satellite Broadband: This method uses satellite connectivity to create a broadband signal. Although readily available and fairly cost effective, satellite broadband tends to come with poor download speeds, so may not provide a solution to your problem.
  • Band together with neighbours: As previously mentioned there are various community schemes aimed at getting more rural areas connected. If you can approach a provider with enough residents looking to switch services to them, you might be able to persuade them to come to town and ,in many instances, you can apply for vouchers to help them offset installation costs.
  • Shop around: There is always the possibility that better deals than the one you’ve got are available in your area. In order to find our check out our handy broadband comparison tool to see what options are available where you are.
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