A simples guide

Broadband in rural areas

If you live in a rural area, you can be forgiven for feeling a little bemused by internet provider posters on telephone exchanges only a few miles from where you live telling you that “Superfast broadband is here”.

What’s really going on and more importantly, is there anything you can do about it?

Soothing messages

The Government has been happy to promote that superfast broadband is now “available to over 90% of homes and businesses in the UK”. If you’re part of the 10% "worry not" they say, “Governments and local authorities are investing £1.7bn to help get superfast broadband to over 95% of the UK by 2017”.

Former PM David Cameron even declared “Just as our forebears effectively brought gas, electricity and water to all, we’re going to bring fast broadband to every home and business that wants it.”

Old cottages


If you actually look at a coverage map of where in Britain has superfast broadband, a worrying picture emerges for those that live in or even near the countryside. While London, Manchester, Birmingham, Cardiff and other large cities have white hot speeds, just a few miles away, other areas may be stuck on super-slow.

Will I get faster broadband soon?

We’d love to tell you that yes, it’s just a case of waiting, but unfortunately it’s not that simple. In May 2016 the Government stated it intends to legislate for a broadband Universal Service Obligation (USO) which would introduce a legal right to request a broadband connection from a provider at a minimum speed (currently expected to be 10mps). However there could be quite a wait for this as they intend for this to be in place by 2020.


What can I do in the meantime?

In the short term, the choices for rural areas might feel limited, but it might be worth investigating the following:

  • Registering your interest

Sign up and register your interest for fibre broadband with BT. The more people that sign up, the better. If there’s a return to be had on BT’s investment, the chances are you’ll be more likely to get a faster service.

  • Start a local petition

If enough of you club together you can potentially convince the government that your area should be added to the rollout list. If other’s in your community are as frustrated as you, they may have already begun this process, so find out and add your name.

  • Fund it between your neighbours

It has been known for local communities or entire villages to club together to pay for the installation of fibre broadband. If you have likeminded neighbours, this could be a help.

Others have avoided the main suppliers completely and chosen to ask a private company to install a local network. You’ll need to be prepared to pay more choosing this route, but it might be worth it to you.

  • Reach out to a smaller supplier

Sometimes companies will get a special grant for rural broadband rollout. So it might be worth asking about to see if any smaller organisations will be willing to support you.

  • Satellite broadband

Satellite broadband sounds in theory like a genuine alternative to cabled broadband services. Essentially, all you need is a dish that can point to the stars (well a satellite anyway) and you can get satellite broadband.

However, despite prices having come down in recent years there are still significant installation costs, restrictive data allowances, reports of poor performance including downtime and “lags” and in some instances indifferent customer service.

If you’re thinking of going down this route, do some research and talk to the provider about what guarantees they will give on your service.

  • Mobile broadband

Certainly broadband over mobile networks has become viable as an alternative to telephone lines, particularly with new faster networks like 4G.

However, the obvious problem with this as a solution for many rural households is that the mobile reception could be as poor as the broadband speeds.

A final note – beware of advertised speeds

You’ll notice that broadband providers like to advertise their speeds. If you look closely you’ll see they always say something like “up to” in front of the speed quoted. This is because this is the maximum speed you can obtain. Sometimes to get that sort of speed, you’d need to live very close to the telephone exchange.

The trouble with copper wired telephone lines which standard broadband uses, is that the signal gets weaker as it travels further. The further you live from the exchange, the slower the service you will actually get which could be a fraction of the speeds advertised.

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To conclude, we would love to be able to offer better news for our rural customers searching for better broadband deals and performance. Unfortunately, at the moment the options can be quite limited. However, keep up the pressure locally and hopefully one day, we really all will have fast broadband. Don’t forget to use our broadband comparison service to find the right deal for you.

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