More than 100 West Lothian homes stuck with poor broadband
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Since March 2020, broadband providers have been required to meet a “universal service obligation”, meaning everyone has the legal right to a “decent, affordable” connection. This is defined as a download speed of at least 10mb/s and an upload speed of 1mb/s, for a maximum of £45 a month.
If customers cannot access internet at this speed, they can ask their local network provider to set up a connection – although internet providers are excused if the cost to them is over £3,400.
New data from Ofcom shows there were 106 homes suffering from broadband below these speeds in January.
A 10mb/s connection is the minimum standard for being able to stream video and make face-to-face calls – both of which have surged as working from home has become normalised over the pandemic.
Homes suffering from extremely slow speeds still made up a minority in West Lothian, accounting for fewer than one per cent of households in the area.
Meanwhile, 71,718 properties (82 per cent) in West Lothian can access “ultrafast” broadband – with speeds of 300mb/s or more – up from 28 per cent five years ago.
In the Falkirk Council area, as of January, 64,364 properties – or 86 per cent of the area – could access “ultrafast” broadband, with speeds of 300mb/s or more. This is up from 29 per cent five years ago, in June 2017.
An Ofcom spokesperson said: “Some homes in hard-to-reach areas still struggle to get decent broadband, so there’s more work to do to make sure these communities get the connections they need.”
Across Scotland, 22,904 homes were below the minimum standard for broadband speed, more than in any other region of the UK.
Which?, the consumer champion, said the cost-of-living crisis has made having a reliable, low-cost broadband all the more necessary. The organisation's director of policy and advocacy, Rocio Concha, said: “The industry and government must work together, or risk undermining the UK’s goal of becoming a world leader in connectivity.”
High-speed internet is a key part of the UK Government’s “levelling-up” agenda. In their 2019 general election manifesto, the Conservatives promised gigabit broadband – with download speeds of 1000mb/s – would be made available nationwide by 2025. This target was later revised down to 85 per cent by 2025, with full coverage by 2030. Ofcom's figures show 66 per cent of the UK can access gigabit broadband.
A spokesperson for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said: "We've put more cash into broadband rollout than any government in British history.
"More than 97 per cent of UK premises can access superfast broadband, which meets people's current needs, but we are determined to not leave anyone behind.
"Since the USO gave people the legal right to a decent internet connection two years ago more than 89,000 premises have been upgraded.
"We're also prioritising these hard-to-reach areas for lightning-fast gigabit broadband through our record £5 billion Project Gigabit, with 600,000 premises already connected."