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Desire for Broadband Investment Outranks Rail and Roads in SW England

Sunday, October 7th, 2018 (12:01 am) - Score 2,393
truespeed fttp pole

A new poll of 2,008 people in the South West, which was conducted by Censuswide on behalf of UK ISP TrueSpeed, has found that the desire for faster broadband outranks other vital local infrastructure investments such as new bus or rail links (44%), roads (42%) and more electric car charging points (22%).

The ‘State of Broadband in South West England’ study also found that almost half (46%) of respondents think greater local access to faster broadband will boost their local area’s economy. People in Devon were most in favour with 49%, followed by Dorset (47%), Somerset (46%), Gloucestershire (44%) and Wiltshire (42%).

However almost half (48%) claim to experience broadband connectivity problems at least once a week, with a similar proportion (46%) saying they experience “average“, “slow” or “very slow” home broadband speeds. Mind you this is roughly in keeping with the proportion of the UK that still subscribe to older and slower ADSL lines, which is often despite faster connections being available to order in the area.

TrueSpeed is currently in the process of using a £75m investment to build a new 1Gbps capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network across rural parts of South West England (i.e. Devon, Gloucestershire , Herefordshire , Somerset and Wiltshire) and they hope to cover 75,000 premises by 2021 (possibly 200,000 by 2025). Suffice to say that the operator has somewhat of a vested interest in the survey results.

Evan Wienburg, CEO and co-Founder of TrueSpeed, said:

“People in the South West recognise the myriad ways that better broadband connectivity can kick-start the region’s digital economy, boost productivity, improve work/life balance, and give more of our young people the opportunity to remain in the South West by taking advantage of the resultant boom in jobs.

We already have the technology to bring greater prosperity to this beautiful region and give our next generation of entrepreneurs the platform they need to compete with the rest of the country and further afield. We simply need local government to push a little harder to fast-track our digital future.”

Other Highlights from the Survey

* The primary economic benefit of better broadband connectivity is helping local businesses to reach new customers outside the region, according to 40% of respondents, followed by the ability to attract more talent (33%) and the creation of more local jobs (26%).

* Just over a quarter (26%) say better broadband will reduce local traffic and congestion thanks to improved home-working opportunities. This figure rises to 30% among the 35-54 demographic.

* Fast broadband speeds for work are a must-have for around two-thirds (63%) of respondents, rising to more than three-quarters of 25-44 year olds, who describe themselves as ‘reliant’ on fast internet connectivity, a figure that’s even higher than the 67% of 16-24 year olds surveyed – perhaps because some of this age group are yet to enter full-time employment.

* Bristol is the best place to live and work in the South West from a broadband perspective, with around a third (36%) reporting average or slow speeds; Cheltenham, Gloucester and Swindon are snapping at their neighbour’s heels with 38% each.

* The counties with the worst broadband speeds tend to be those characterised by dispersed, underserved rural communities. In Devon and Dorset, almost half (49% and 48% respectively) report average, slow or very slow speeds, with Somerset faring slightly better at 43%, albeit boosted by Bristol’s good connectivity.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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36 Responses
  1. Avatar A_Builder

    Whilst I used to be a big supporter of HS2 I do sometimes wonder, recently more frequently, if investing more £3k business vouchers and £500 residential vouchers to make FTTP a reality might actually be a better investment for UK PLC.

    The voucher scheme does seem to have wonderfully stimulated things and is, all things are relative, a transparent level playing field.

    Obviously some high density developments don’t need any incentives: as is proved by current commercial roll outs.

    Has anyone actually calculated the cost of “vouchering” the less low hanging fruit?

    • Avatar An_Engineer

      The whole point of High Speed is the mobilisation of the workforce and HS2 and HS3 are both an incredibly important step in reconnecting the North and the South. Different financial studies have shown that the North makes up between 25 and 33% of the countries economy and is the largest contributer outside of London. Fibre is important as we move into the technological buisness world but it won’t make the country the same amount of money.

    • Avatar Graham Long

      @An_Engineer: ROI for HS2 is between £1.75 and £2 for each of the £53.5Billion pounds it will cost (Computer Weekley). ROI for fibre broadband is £20 for every £1 invested (Cambridge Econometrics). Quod erat demonstrandum! HS2 is Osborne’s vanity project and rather than providing mobility for northern workers it will simply suck economic growth out of the north and down to London.

    • Avatar A_Builder

      @An_Engineer & @ Graham_Long

      I’m not sure I quite believe those ROI figures but look at it this way – it is a very narrow view but bear with me.

      You convert part of a farm into a business centre. It say costs £10k of intervention to get fibre there 3 x businesses @ £3k + £1k from the landlord. Not an impossibility with the existing voucher scheme.

      So the state investment is effectively £9k + admin so call it £10k

      The former cowshed now yields £10k every single year in business rates.

      Over 20 years, a not ridiculous lifespan to consider, there is a business rates income of £200k less the £10k upfront so an NP of tax of £190k for that one scheme. If that sort of economics, plus creating rural jobs, plus general tax take doesn’t get people interested in having their tax £ spend to FTTP then there is a total lack of imagination.

      I suppose the point I am making is that the actual level of intervention to get full FTTP are nowhere near the cost of HS2 never mind HS2 + HS3 and in the general scheme of government expenditure pretty affordable. The voucher scheme has, so far, been a roaring success and got things moving at a tremendous pace. So what we need is more of the voucher scheme.

      There is a lot to be positive about in the UK FTTP market at the moment. Lots of good stuff is happening without huge subsidy.

      So I would *love* to see HS2/3 built as we do need good physical connectivity but when I think of what 10% of the budget would achieve for national FTTP coverage I suspect that £400m/yr over 10 years could be found as the ROI on it for UK PLC is rather excellent. A huge number of people benefit from it and it is absolutely necessary for post BREXIT Britain to be able to adapt very fast which digital enables.

    • Avatar gerarda

      The ROI for HS2 is almost negative. When the cost went up, magically so did the predicted return. Even if the minor ROI that it is supposed to have turns out to be correct, then as anyone who has studied the effect of bringing a small magnet nearer to a large one will know that the benefit will be in London’s to the detriment of the north.

      Spending half that sum (or much less if Openreach suddenly becomes efficient) on broadband would be a much much better alternative

  2. Avatar Graham Long

    No surprise from the survey results but even today Connecting Devon & Somerset, run by the two county councils have still not claimed and spent gainshare/clawback funding from BT as part of the Phase 1 superfast programme to connect more properties, although the Phase 1 programme finished in March 2017 and superfast take up in Phase 1 areas is over 38%. CDS closed their voucher scheme for premises not covered in the Phase 2 roll out in 2016 and have still not relaunched it. CDS is the largest superfast programme in the UK and was used as a contracting pilot by BDUK but is one of the slowest to connect properties. CDS also had to run the Phase 2 contracting process three times before they got Gigaclear and Airband on board. In March 2018, the Devon County Council Scrutiny Committee called on CDS to hold “stakeholder events” to inform the public in each Phase 2 lot area of progress and ask questions. CDS refused saying they consider their stakeholders are BDUK and their subcontractors – not the taxpaying public! You could not make it up how badly CDS have managed this programme.

    • Avatar chris conder

      CDS are no worse than any of the councils, they have all managed it badly. It is all part of the superfarce Graham. The councils are in the power of the vital vision programme, together with most senior civil servants in the government. I agree the money could be better spent on decent connectivity and that would mean our rural areas could survive to be the main artery of food, water, power and fresh air for the cities. Ignore them at our peril. Bracken is just waiting to take over.

    • Avatar New_Londoner

      Seriously Chris, tin foil hat conspiracy theorists have their own special sites to avoid polluting the rest of the World Wide Web!

      I agree with Graham that the CDS “project team” seems pretty incompetent, aided and abetted by council leadership. If I lived in the CDS area I’d be wondering whether my hard earned tax money was in safe hands, would certainly want to scrutinise CDS plans very closely for value for money.

    • Avatar Graham Long

      @NewLondoner Scrutiny is the job of the Council Scrutiny Committee and in Devon it is chaired by a Lib Dem Councillor and not a majority Conservative Councillor, but after 6 months of evidence collection (in camera) they published a report calling for more information to be provided to stakeholders and CDS have simply ignored the recommendation with the support of the DCC Chief Exec. See the report here: https://democracy.devon.gov.uk/documents/s15396/Broadband%20final.pdf

    • Avatar Fastman

      interesting it seem the understanding of what HS2 will bring in Phase 1 and !a (which are both to open in 2026) is almost a devoid on reality and understanding of BDUK and broadband

  3. Avatar Mark

    Well I noticed Dorset was left off this report.. not surprising as the Dorset council has done great work but I do know their are still areas of poor broadband, these are being looked at as I understand.
    Be nice to have FTTP though.. also I’d note, people in the Southwest just think if the utterly useless waste of money HS2 when asked about rail improvements, bus routes? We don’t have many as they keep getting back and back. Car is almost the only valid choice.

  4. Avatar Hixon Group - Business IT Support

    I run a small business IT support company in Staffordshire (West Midlands) we encounter businesses across the county that suffer tremendously due to lack of high speed broadband.

    Even businesses in town centre locations achieve less than 10mb and little is being done to improve infrastructure and support.

    The government needs to spend more on the UK infrastructure perhaps even setting up its own solution to the problem removing open reach and its shareholders from the market in these areas.

    This isn’t an isolated issue in the south west of England.

    • Avatar Fastman


      2 questions

      (A) Is not available to anyone

      is it available tgo anyone but not from your preferred provider (who’s chosen not to sell Fibre services)

      those 2 are very different

      suggest you google BT wholesale DSL checker by address or Telephone (you need a del number such as a broadband line or fax line) not a main number

      that will determine whether its A or B at your specific address

    • Avatar TheFacts

      @HG – why are other suppliers not installing in these areas?

    • Avatar Meadmodj

      This site is full of the history as to why we are where we are. We have a competitive broadband market with many suppliers available and businesses can avail themselves of government vouchers for Fibre. Small businesses can also bond more than one circuit together or use a mix of fixed and mobile bonded.
      Yes there is an issue currently for those left marooned on Exchange Only Lines and long rural. The former is commercial and hopefully will be covered by the announcements from various network providers. The latter needs to be addressed by the proposed USO which hopefully will have speed enhancement and FTTP first as part of the criteria.
      OR has/had a monopoly on DSL due to its copper network but that is no longer the case now for FTTP. We just need Ofcom to ensure an environment which encourages more and timely investment.

    • Avatar GNewton

      @TheFacts: Why do you keep asking the same questions?

      For a change, why don’t you come up with some positive suggestions on how to improve the situation in SW England?

    • Avatar Fastman

      if this is Stafford 55 based on your name and business location that seems be able to get a service in excess of 15 m/bps if you on a business park suggest you have a conversation with landlord to see if you can do a FTTP solution via Community fibre using LLFN vouchers – sure you probably not the only one in this location

      you need to check to ensure that area is not in build by BDUK

      surprised you not investigated this one already

      USO will provide nothing as you are over 10 m/bps

    • Avatar New_Londoner

      According to Thinkbroadband, around 95% of premises in Staffordshire have access to speeds of 24Mbos or higher on broadband. And of course businesses can always get Ethernet too.

      So presumably your business customers are particularly unlucky with broadband and don’t want to pay for Ethernet?

    • Avatar TheFacts

      @GN – CDS Phase 2. Happy now?

    • Avatar GNewton

      @TheFacts: Always happy to spend taxpayer’s money, aren’t you 🙂

    • Avatar TheFacts

      @GNtroll – I have never said that. I have given options.

  5. Avatar dee.jay

    I believe we should scrap HS2 entirely, and use that money to fund broadband. So much more potential for business growth, and pushing our country forward, and actually into, the 21st century!

    • Avatar Fastman

      really so potentially removing thousands of lorries off the m6 north of rugby and enabling sigficantly more train to run in Northamptonshire and central England is not important . both of these are direct consequences of building HS2

    • Avatar Mark

      Well when you hear the figures Open Reach quote to FTTP the entire nation, it’s but a fraction of the projected 100 billion cost of HS2 which is just a glorified Tories train set.

    • Avatar dee.jay

      @Mark – exactly right.

    • Avatar Meadmodj

      HS2 was approved by politicians of all parties.
      The business case for HS2 promises lots of things but as usual the policies have yet to be determined. Therefore by 2026 demand for passenger numbers may squeeze out freight as you do not need HS for freight you just need more rails. In addition any freight facility will be north of London so unless the it adds value most transhipments will continue due to relatively cheap fuel and wages. In addition Brexit may result in more overseas shipments being made to British ports rather than Rotterdam which will significantly change the dynamics of the road routes used. Any optimism that HS2 will have a significant impact on road freight is likely to be misplaced. HS2 is now expected to be at least twice its original cost if not more.
      A more realistic comparison with Broadband would be Government Infrastructure spend which in 2017 was £8.9 billion on Electricity and Roads was £4.2 billion. Per year!!. If the UK Government wanted to it could easily divert expenditure to Broadband but instead only provides finite initiatives and a proposed low expectation USO paid for by other customers in their bills.
      My view is that it would be simple for the government to calculate a voucher subsidy based on the premises line distance which network providers can then bid towards their investment as long as work bid for is completed within the next 12 months. No complex cost analysis, no Local and County Council bureaucracy or revenue share. Just leave it to the Network Providers with a criteria to provide services that can start at 30Mbps enhanceable to at least 1Gbps and “Open” ISP access.

    • Avatar MikeP

      Horrendously off-topic, but….

      If HS2 isn’t built, then the lack of capacity on the WCML will need to be addressed by upgrading the existing infra. That will be far, far more expensive and disruptive than the HS2 build. But, hey, if you’d prefer that….

      Crazy that its PR was all based on reduced journey times, though, rather than the far more pressing need for it – N-S rail capacity, which has to be delivered one way or another.

    • Avatar Graham Long

      Dare I bring Brexit into this debate: Government funding of broadband roll out is governed by EU State Aid Rules which require the UK to ensure no state aid to the telecoms industry pays for the state to overbuild existing and planned commercial suprfast (>30Mbps) roll out which necessitates the beuracratic “open market surveys” that all programmes have to undertake to define intervention areas. The same rules then require rural state aided roll out costs not to exceed approx £1800/property connection cost which is why CDS Lot 4 went to Airband wireless and not Gigaclear fibre. The same state aid rules allso require state aided programmes to be “managed locally” which is interpreted as being county councils in the UK, who when the programmes started had absolutely no knowledge of telecoms meaning that many of the County Councils had to expensive consultants to tell them what the telecoms suppliers were offering. March 29, 2019 all of this could of course change!

    • Avatar Colinpbrooks

      Most of HS2 benefit is around the M6 M1 corridor so nothing to external

      In addition any freight facility will be north of London so unless the it adds value most transhipments will continue due to relatively cheap fuel and wages. In addition Brexit may result in more overseas shipments being made to British ports rather than Rotterdam which will significantly change the dynamics of the road routes used. Any optimism that HS2 will have a significant impact on road freight is likely to be misplaced.

    • Avatar A_Builder


      The £25Bn OR figure is now totally discredited. It was the highest plausible figure that could be manufactured to try and get subsidy out of the government.

      A lot of the build is going to be done privately for zero subsidy – a a lot of money has been found to do just this already.

      More of the build can and will be done on the back of the voucher schemes which just need more long term funding. This is going on all over the place.

      And then that does leave a rump of about 20% (we can argue about the size of the rump) where other interventions and support of the likes of B4RN are producing results as pure commercial cannot. And there is the last and most difficult 5% (global) of the 20% but ironically somewhere between 1/5 and 1/4 (and we can also argue about this as it isn’t a hard fact) of that is already done by FTTP because of existing interventions. Up till recently rural FTTP dominated the FTTP equation.

  6. Avatar TheFacts

    Why broadband v. HS2, what about the NHS?

    • Avatar dee.jay

      Because the government have made a huge fuss about how HS2 will improve investment in business – when the argument is that improving broadband will make better improvements than making trains 20 minutes quicker to London. I mean, big wow.

      It’s nothing to do with the NHS in this context.

    • Avatar GNewton

      @TheFacts: Instead of posting your lame questions here, how about coming up with some positive contributions to the actual subject, other than referring to some lame BDUK projects?

  7. Avatar Brian

    What if decent broadband provided the means for more telecommuting etc, and thus reduced the need for people to actually travel on the trains? This could apply to all routes.

    • Avatar TheFacts

      Homeworking started with 128k ISDN. Decent?

    • Avatar GNewton

      @TheFacts: Seriously, do you have anything constructive to say here? Such as proposals on how to implement fibre broadband in SW England especially since it is of high priority for many?

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