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Broadband upgrade available

Published: 07 February 2020

Rural areas could be eligible for a broadband upgrade

If you live in a rural area and would like your broadband speed to be faster, then you might be able to do something about it.

The Government is keen for residents and businesses to have access to faster broadband, regardless of where they live. There is funding available to help; and even if you think your current speed is fine, you might still be eligible as it might help to future proof your community.

Not all rural areas will be eligible, but it's worth finding out what you could be entitled to.

Check your broadband speed

Firstly, you will need to find out how fast broadband is in your area. Communications regulator Ofcom has two calculators to test speeds.

One is for broadband which comes into your home through a phone line or cable visit the Ofcom broadband checker webpage, and one is for broadband which comes from a wireless network visit the Ofcom Mobile Coverage webpage.

There are then two potential funding schemes to explore.

1. Universal Service Obligation (USO)

The broadband Universal Service Obligation means that from Friday 20 March, residents and businesses have a legal right to request broadband speeds of at least 10 Mbps (megabits-per-second) or more.

Individual homes and businesses can contact BT and find out if they are eligible. Visit the Ofcom webpage advice for consumers broadband USO need to know for more information.

2. Rural gigabit voucher scheme

Groups of two or more residential properties or small/medium businesses (SMEs) could be entitled to vouchers to upgrade their broadband if they are only able to access download speeds of less than 100 Mbps on not gigabit-capable infrastructure.

Connections to single properties aren't eligible, and there may be costs for property owners. However, as the vouchers are worth £1,500 per residence and £3,500 per SME, the more properties involved will help reduce the cost.

Residents and businesses benefitting from these vouchers are required to take up a service delivered on gigabit-capable infrastructure with a minimum of 30 Mbps download speed or at least double their current speed.

So, for example, if someone currently has a service of:

  • 10 Mbps, they will have to take out a service of at least 30 Mbps
  • 15 Mbps, they will have to take out a service of at least 30 Mbps
  • 30 Mbps, they will have to take out a service of at least 60 Mbps
  • 60 Mbps, they will have to take out a service of at least 120 Mbps
  • 80 Mbps, they will have to take out a service of at least 160 Mbps

Anyone interested in this scheme should work with neighbours and other homes and businesses in their area who are interested in improving broadband speeds.

Then visit the Government's rural gigabit voucher scheme website to find suppliers who work in the area – they will be able to advise on eligibility.

Getting people connected since 2012

Since 2012, Surrey County Council and BT have worked together and helped more than 83,000 premises in Surrey to benefit from superfast broadband. More than 98 per cent of homes and businesses across Surrey can now access broadband download speeds of more than 24 Mbps.

It is anticipated that commercial fixed and mobile network providers including Openreach, Box Broadband, Virgin Media, B4SH and local providers such as Surrey Hills Internet will connect about 80% of UK premises to gigabit speeds by 2025. Openreach has already announced that parts of Epsom, Ewell, Burgh Heath, Molesey, Sunbury, Thames Ditton, Lingfield, Wentworth, Lightwater, Trumps Green, Betchworth, Brockham, Box Hill and Felbridge will be able to access full fibre broadband in the next three years.

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