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Your broadband is slow because you’re tight and stupid

Broadband speed test

Superfast broadband is more widely available than ever, so why are some people still stuck on crawling connections?

The latest figures are in and Britain’s broadband is in a mess. People on Wheatley Road in Essex and Erw Fawr in Conwy suffer from the slowest connections in the country with average download speeds of just 0.60Mbps.

But their crawling connections have nothing to do with the calamitous state of British broadband and more to do with people not willing to pay for a good service.

With download speeds of just 0.60Mbps Wheatley Road’s broadband is 30 times slower than the UK average of 17.8Mbps. Except that isn’t true. A speed check reveals it is hooked up to both BT Infinity and Virgin Media, with download speeds available up to 100Mbps.

The research comes from price comparison website uSwitch, but the numbers are misleading. Its own speed check service shows that someone on Wheatley Road is getting 21.8Mbps from Virgin Media – faster than the national average.

Admittedly there are some areas in the UK where broadband is sinfully slow. Most broadband providers advertise speeds of up to 16Mbps for Erw Fawr in Henryd, Conwy but the reality is far gloomier. A speed check shows it crawling along at somewhere between 0.50Mbps and 1.2Mbps.

For the most part uSwitch’s post code speed check reveals what is already widely known – broadband is fast in cities and slow in the countryside. Data was gathered from 1.9 million consumer speed tests conducted between August 2013 and January 2014. The figures appear to show that people don’t have access to fast broadband, but that’s rubbish.

Complaints about slow broadband are ten a penny but more people than ever now have access to fast connections. The latest figures from Ofcom show that only 9 per cent of people are now using superfast connections above 30Mbps, that’s despite superfast connections being available to 73 per cent of the UK. Around 69 per cent of households in the UK are still using ADSL connections.

A clear distinction needs to be drawn between what speeds people are getting and what speeds they could be getting. Just because fibre broadband is available on a street in Essex it doesn’t mean everyone will pay for it. Scores of people are either oblivious of the superfast broadband connections available to them or unwilling to stump up the cash.

Residents of Grange Gardens in the affluent Hampstead area of North West London live in multi-million pound mansions yet allegedly suffer from download speeds of just 1.19Mbps, making this the seventeenth slowest street in the UK. A speed check nearby shows they could be getting up to 119Mb on Virgin Media or 39.4Mb on BT. Openreach’s availability checker also shows it is available and accepting orders.

Yet for some people the fastest connections are prohibitively expensive – at £26 a month on an 18 month contract BT Infinity is pricey. Spending up to and over £300 a year on broadband isn’t possible for households on tight budgets, so it is little wonder that some people are unwilling to upgrade.

Arguably Britain’s biggest broadband problem is switching from one provider to another. Horror stories of poor customer service and incompetent engineers are common and most people are scared of switching or simply don’t know how. As with other utilities, sticking with one supplier for too long and not switching around means people can get ripped off.

More work must to be done to speed up broadband and bring down prices. The divide between urban and rural areas is vast, with average speeds now 31.9Mpbs and 11.3Mbps respectively. Yet uSwitch’s misleading figures reveal another story: people are either too skint or too stupid to upgrade to faster broadband.

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