Tuesday, 16 August 2016 05:47

Broadband adverts 'mislead' rural residents

Written by  Ruralcity Media
Broadband adverts 'mislead' rural residents

RURAL residents are being misled by connection speeds only available to 10% of customers, say local councils.

Speeds advertised by broadband providers fail to reflect the experience of many users – particularly those in remote rural areas, said the Local Government Association (LGA).

Current rules allow providers to promote "up to" download speeds if they can show that just 10% of their customers achieve them.

But speeds in many remote rural areas fall well below 2Mbps during periods including when children get home from school, during holidays and after 6pm.

    See also: Getting broadband to the final 5%

This means a typical family household would struggle if the children wanted to watch catch up TV and the parents wanted to browse the internet at the same time.

The LGA, which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales, said switching from "up to" to average advertised speeds would reflect these periods better.

Upload speed should also be a key measure of performance alongside download speed and clearly advertised to consumers, said the LGA.

Fast and reliable upload speed is a growing requirement for rural and small businesses which utilise cloud services, video conferencing and send large data files.

The LGA said councils had played a big role in the extension of digital connectivity to households through the Superfast Broadband Programme.

Many councils were aiming to beat the government's national target of 95% coverage of premises by December 2017, it said.

Councils were also working to find solutions to extend provision to those in the final 5%.

A Universal Service Obligation (USO) announced by the government will give everybody the legal right to request a minimum download speed of 10Mbps by 2020.

It is estimated that as many as one million households will be unable to access such a service by 2017 – with 100,000 of those in remote rural areas.

The LGA said telecoms watchdog Ofcom must monitor the performance of connections to assess whether providers are adhering to its specifications, especially during peak hours.

Mark Hawthorne, chairman of the LGA's people and places board, said: "Councils are working hard to ensure everyone has good quality internet access.

"Good digital connectivity is a vital element of everyday life for residents.

"It can help them cut household bills, shop online for cheaper goods, stay in touch with distant relatives, access their bank accounts and even run their own businesses."

As central and local government services increasingly become 'digital by default', more people would need to have faster and more reliable speeds, said councillor Hawthorne.

"The headline 'up to' download speed, which can be advertised legally, is misleading and does not reflect the reality of broadband service received across the country.

"Broadband users deserve greater honesty and openness about the download and upload speeds they are likely to receive depending on their location."

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