Apologies for the title, but am feeling pretty frustrated about the current situation after the Queen’s Speech!
This isn’t about the north/south divide, it’s not even about the have/have not’s, it’s about my Government not being able to deliver me a basic utility. Does this impact my human rights, I wonder? The government has pledged in the Queen’s Speech that we have a ‘right’ to 10Mbps broadband, yet, as I continually bang on about, I do not have ANY broadband – nothing, zippo, nada. The problem with any documented or legislated ‘right’ is that there are always people/groups/departments that continue to flout the implementation of said right.
I’m located 11km from the fibre optic enable telephone exchange, which, by the way, isn’t a rural location, not really. No, I am just a 10-minute drive from Junction 8/9 of the M4 – in fact pretty close to Queenie’s back garden at Windsor. Yes, I’m located in the Tory ‘heartland’ of the South and yet I can’t get broadband – why? Well, dear reader, the answer to that is simple, it is not economically viable for BT/OpenReach to lay any infrastructure to supply me a BASIC broadband service. This is due to my community consisting of approximately 20 or so houses that do not have any broadband via BT infrastructure. Thus, the spend required to poke a usable broadband connection down our copper wire would never provide a return on investment. We are rurally located enough to not have a gas supply nor be on mains drainage, so we’re already paying a premium on LPG or oil and maintaining plants to get rid of our own s&!t.
I digress, the bottom line is the Government and its ministers, Ed Vaizey in particular, Minister of State for Culture and the Digitial Economy, are using statistics that, in my opinion, are down right lies. There has been a government-funded initiative Superfast Berkshire to provide superfast broadband to Berkshire homes. I keep reading that 95% of homes and businesses are now enabled. One could argue, as a great technology journalist Peter Gothard of Computing fame continues to do so, that 10 Mbps is hardly fast! This organisation has an interactive map that demonstrates coverage. Now, if the likes of Ed Vaizey and Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for business, are viewing the stats from this map, then, bingo!, we’ve got broadband, because that’s what the green bit on the map shows!
But this is just pure and utter bullshit, as I’m continually told by the copious BT engineers that have to attend down our line to fix the failing, old knackered wires to deliver a shitty voice connection only, we will never get broadband here with the current infrastructure. I can only assume it is these inaccuracies that enable Ed Vaizey to write an article such as this in the Telegraph this week.
I’ve been interviewed on BBC South Today and BBC Radio Berkshire about this issue, each time I re-iterate that in the 21st century a broadband connection is an every day necessity like electricity and water. Now, you will find even property details contain details of broadband speeds for the property on sale, in the same way the house’s energy rating is listed!
I, and my little community, all survive either with a 3G/4G dongle (yes even 4G coverage is spotty out here!) or with satellite broadband. The Government has made an offer to subsidise a satellite connection by up to £350, but the actual cost of installing one is close to £1,000 + VAT and getting a basic service of 8Mbps up and 2Mbps down is in the region of £50+VAT PER MONTH, so the measly offer of £350 is totally and utterly inadequate. Plus, if you’ve already invested in your own satellite because you had no option – hello! Me! – then you can’t claim the £350 retrospectively, what a surprise.
I’m doing my bit for the congested roads in Berkshire and being ‘green’ by working from home. You could argue the outlay of satellite broadband is small scale in comparison with having to rent an office. As a BT engineer once said to me – in the days that they still did site surveys – you have this wonderful, idyllic location what more do you want? I want the view AND broadband sir, that’s what I want!
On that note, I have twice been told by BT sales that between a 1Mbps and 3Mbps broadband connection is available to me. Twice I’ve ordered the connection, twice the equipment has been sent out, twice I’ve installed it and twice the blue “b” has not lit up. Twice I’ve returned the equipment and twice BT has charged me for cancelling the order! It took a lot of arguing with BT that I didn’t cancel the order, they couldn’t provide the service and thus I’ve returned the equipment. Twice it took me months to get a credit for the £120 “cancellation” fee. What a joke.
I hope the likes of Peter from Computing, The Telegraph’s campaign and Christopher Hope from The Telegraph with their continual journalistic efforts can help move this Government into action. The likes of me – your constituent, your voting public, one of the idiots that put you in power – are not making a difference other than to keep banging on about it. Perhaps one day this lone voice will be heard………..