MPs demand better broadband

MPs have backed calls for broadband providers to give businesses in rural areas equal download speeds to those in urban areas.

MPs have backed calls for broadband providers to give businesses in rural areas equal download speeds to those in urban areas.

Computer Weekly readers have complained that they pay high charges for broadband connections outside major towns, and that often the speeds are far slower than those advertised.

Theresa May, shadow leader of the House of Commons, has tabled a parliamentary petition calling on the government and Ofcom to improve access to broadband services in rural areas.

May said that small businesses based in the countryside required quick and reliable broadband services, but that access was still a problem for many rural communities across the country.

"I strongly believe that it is vital for rural areas to have an equal level of service to those in urban areas," she said in a statement.

Twenty-two MPs have signed the petition, known as an early day motion. They are calling for businesses with similar problems to encourage their local MPs to sign up too.

In a separate move, Mark Durkan, Social Democratic & Labour Party MP for Foyle, Northern Ireland, filed an early day motion for ISPs to provide upfront information on the download speeds users can expect before signing contracts.

He called on Ofcom to set a longer cooling-off period for customers signing up to an ISP so they can be satisfied that their actual connection speed matches the provider's promise.

"It should not be a lottery about what broadband speeds businesses get. ISPs should provide clear information upfront so customers know what they are paying for. Where businesses find it isn't fit for purpose, they should be able to move penalty-free or have charges adjusted to fit the speeds they get," Durkan said.

Broadband remains a problem for Computer Weekly readers.

David Bradbury, IT manager at solicitors Ashton Graham, sometimes uses his home BT internet connection to provide remote support to other members of staff. The advertised connection speed is 8mbps, but actual download speed from the internet varies from 1.2mbps to 400K, he said.

Gary Hines, IT manager at Sonomatic, said his company has an office in Aberdeen and pays BT £24.99 a month for an 8mbps connection but only gets around 1mbps down and a "horrific" 233K back up.

BT said it has always made clear in its advertising that the speeds it offers are "up to" 8mbps, and explains that this headline speed depends on a range of factors, including distance from the exchange.

Robert Willcox, a lecturer in developing technologies at the University of Bath, said that any new Ofcom directives must include minimum levels of service in contracts and should apply to individuals as well as businesses.

"I think ISPs should tailor packages to suit the actual bandwidth speed achieved," said reader Andy Price, an IT technician at Birmingham City University.


Get it off your chest

Do you have trouble with your broadband connection or leased line? Got a recommendation for Ofcom? E-mail your comments to [email protected]

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