'Levelling Up'. The UK Government's promise

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'Levelling Up' - a much-used slogan, but when it comes to good connectivity, what should this really mean?

You may have seen some of the recent Conservative party leadership debates, with all candidates claiming that they're fully committed to the 'Levelling Up' agenda that the party's been promising to deliver on for years.

'Levelling Up' is meant to be all about the Government lessening the inequality between different regions in the UK by investing a greater amount of public funding to improve facilities and infrastructure in those areas that are more disadvantaged.

Obviously, what with good quality internet connectivity becoming ever more essential in people's working and social lives, having access to fast and reliable broadband no matter where you may live really ought to form a core part of any serious 'Levelling Up' agenda. But sadly, this just does not seem to be happening...

The number of homes and businesses being digitally left behind

According to recent Ofcom figures, there are around 600,000 home and business premises that have no access to what it calls “decent” broadband. (Our day-to-day real-world experience strongly suggests to us that this is a significant under-estimate, but for the sake of argument, we'll go with that).

By “decent broadband”, Ofcom means that the only landline-based broadband services available to those properties run at 10 Mbps or very often far lower.

At those sorts of really poor broadband speeds, many online activities that most of us would take for granted become next to impossible. To name just a few, it'll be very difficult to work effectively from home with video meetings being a particular nightmare. On-demand TV and streaming will be almost unusable and if there are several people trying to access the internet at the same time via a slow broadband connection in say a family home, every single one will experience frustratingly slow speeds, no matter what they're trying to do online.

Where is the 'bad broadband' problem at its very worst?

Unsurprisingly, the areas with the very slowest broadband very much tend to be in more rural communities. There's a very simple explanation for this and it's all about cost. You can find out more about this here.

The Different Types Of Broadband

photo of parliament in london

So what's the Government actually been doing about this?

Unfortunately nothing much.

Government help used to be available to the digitally deprived

First a little bit of history. A few years back, the Government did in fact have a subsidy scheme (called The Better Broadband Voucher Scheme) which was all about using alternative broadband delivery technology (like 4G) to help those with the very worst landline broadband to get much improved connections. The scheme (under which we were a founder supplier) covered the entire set-up costs of getting an alternative broadband service for those who were eligible.

But then it got stopped

Sounds great, doesn't it? And it was - except that the availability of the scheme was very poorly publicised while it was running and worse still, it was terminated after just a couple of years, despite there still being hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses that still needed help. (And yes, we argued passionately against this, but sadly to no avail).

And overtaken by a single-minded fixation on full fibre

Since then, the Government has been solely fixated on only funding the deployment of something called 'full fibre'. In fact, in 2019 in the run-up to the last election, a promise was made to spend £5 billion to give every single property in the UK a full fibre gigabit-capable (that's 1,000 Mbps) connection by the end of 2025.

Unfortunately (and as the entire broadband industry knew straight away), this was totally unrealistic in terms of both time and cost and was always going to be completely unachievable.

This penny dropped for the Government a year later and it quietly rowed back on its commitment, now saying that it would provide full fibre broadband to 85% of UK properties by the end of 2025 at a dramatically reduced spend of £1.25 billion.

Yes, that's a lot more realistic and may even be close to achievable...

Sadly that leaves those most in need of better broadband behind

BUT (and here's the thing)... in the vast majority of cases, which properties do you think the Government is going to fund getting a full fibre broadband service to? Yes, of course it's the ones that are the easiest, fastest and cheapest to do - so the ones in towns and cities… that already have perfectly good broadband speeds!

To us, this makes no logical sense at all - in fact it's almost unethical. Why waste so much public funding on getting homes that already have say 50 Mbps broadband speeds a new service that can run at up to 1,000 Mbps, when there are so many other properties currently struggling with appallingly poor broadband that aren't going to get any help at all?

photo of a paper note being burnt

What the Government should be doing if it's serious about levelling up

First and foremost, what the Government needs to do is to prioritise getting much-improved broadband to those hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses that are suffering from digital deprivation by having the slowest broadband. And to do that, it needs to look at highly cost-effective and very swiftly deployable alternative broadband delivery technologies such as 4G.

Current Government policy actually makes us angry, because it's simply not fair. Yes, of course we understand that having access to full fibre broadband is great. And we also appreciate that funding is not limitless. But surely the right thing to do is first to spend to help those genuinely in the greatest need, rather than just carrying out some policy that merely looks good on paper once achieved.

There are solutions - and ones that are immediately available pretty much anywhere

We at National Broadband offer wire-free broadband connections over both 4G and 5G, with no reliance at all on a landline (and it's the state of repair or the length of landlines that are the primary reasons behind poor quality broadband).

With the right equipment, both 4G and 5G can be used to provide speedy and stable broadband to a single fixed location like a home or business. This can be done very cost-effectively and within a matter of days.

Our current 5G-based services offer ultrafast (100 Mbps+) performance, but at the moment are only available in urban locations.

On the other hand, for more rural locations, our 4G broadband which performs at an average 25 Mbps is available almost everywhere throughout the entire UK. For those with the poorest current broadband, those sorts of speeds are going to be more than enough to level homes and businesses up and enable them to take advantage of all the online resources available nowadays.

Best of all, both 4G and 5G broadband can be supplied within just a matter of days, if coverage is available. And that even includes locations where smartphones may only show very weak or flaky signal levels.

So don't go thinking your only choice is to wait for Government or Openreach to finally remember that you exist and get around to doing something about your bad broadband. Check out our genuinely life-changing alternative broadband solutions and discover what we can do for you.

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Ultrafast 5G Broadband

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