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The High Cost of Broadband for USO Excluded UK Communities

Sunday, Aug 30th, 2020 (12:01 am) - Score 11,374

The elephant in the room of the UK Government’s broadband centric Universal Service Obligation (USO) has always been the fact that it isn’t truly “universal” and tens of thousands of premises have fallen outside of its scope. In other words, getting a minimum speed of 10Mbps can become very expensive for some.

Assuming you were all following the development of the new USO on ISPreview.co.uk, then you probably already know about the pricey catch-22 of its design, but since the obligation was implemented in March 2020 many people are now finding out about this for the first time. Needless to say, the high cost of deployment is quickly being brought into a sharp focus.

NOTE: Ofcom’s spring 2020 coverage data found that around 2% of the UK or 608,000 premises fall into the USO (here), which drops to 189,000 premises when 4G (mobile) is included as a solution.

Before we get started it’s important to understand what the USO is and how it works. Essentially, those who live in an area where download speeds of at least 10Mbps (1Mbps upload) aren’t achievable have gained the “legal right” to “request” a 10Mbps+ capable connection from BT (or KCOM if you live in Hull). Meanwhile areas that are due to benefit from a “publicly funded broadband rollout plan within the next 12 months” remain excluded.

A cost threshold of £3,400 per premises applies to the USO. In other words, if the cost of building or upgrading your share of the network connection is £3,400 or less, then you won’t have to pay for this work to be done. If it costs more than that to connect your home, and you still want a connection, then you can choose to pay the excess costs or forget it. The build itself is expected to take 12 months, but may take up to 24 months for some.

Originally the expectation was that this would be delivered using fixed line broadband ISP solutions, such as FTTC or FTTP, but Ofcom’s decision to allow 4G (mobile broadband) into the mix has changed things (see above). Despite this, there are still some areas where neither 4G nor fixed lines can reach at 10Mbps. BT previously estimated that 110,000 premises could end up being too expensive for even the USO to solve.

Expensive Civil Engineering

In order to understand how expensive it is to connect remote communities we have to look back at a few practical examples, including some by other operators. One such scheme was the excellent Balquhidder deployment in rural Scotland (here), which aimed to connect c.200 premises (mostly homes) around Loch Doine and Loch Voil with FTTP. This cost over £400,000 (£2,000 per premises) due, in part, to the sparse and rugged terrain.

Other recent examples include the Michaelston-y-Fedw community project in rural Wales (here), which at the time was working to a budget of around £260,000 (€300,000) in order to connect roughly 70 properties, but they’ve since raised this to 200 with FTTP – this equates to a per premises cost of around £1,300-£1,400.

At the cheaper end of the spectrum there are examples like the Openreach (BT) based Community Fibre Partnership (CFP) in the rural Welsh village of Llancarfan (here), which was quoted about £67,000 to cover 129 properties (£519 per premises). Meanwhile another Openreach build to connect just 5 remote rural homes around Morton Farm (here), just south of Tayport in Fife (Scotland), was quoted around £23,000 (£4,600 per premises).

Crucially some community projects can save a lot of money by involving volunteers to help build the network and encouraging local land owners (e.g. farmers) to waive their right to wayleave fees, but other locations aren’t so lucky. Suffice to say that every area is different, but it’s a well established fact that connecting up smaller rural communities is a slow and expensive business (hence why they’re usually the last to benefit).

Openreach has previously estimated that some rural communities in the final 10% of areas could require an “outlay of around £4,000 each to pass” with FTTP (here), which compares with build costs of £300-£400 for the first 50% of more commercially viable UK premises. Meanwhile Ofcom’s more optimistic model indicated that the capital expenditure needed to do FTTP for the first c.20 million UK premises is under £500 per premises, but above that point it quickly rises to around £2,500 (here).

Costs for the USO Excluded

The above examples seem to indicate that a cost threshold of £3,400 per premises should be enough to help cover the bulk of costs for many USO communities that exist without access to either a viable fixed line or 4G solution, although clearly BT expects that quite a few areas will still be more expensive than this to tackle. Indeed some extremes will exist that go way above that level.

According to one of Ofcom’s documents on the USO design from March 2018 (here), “The final 1% of UK premises are materially more expensive to connect than premises in the rest of the country, and within this, that the most expensive premises to connect could cost £45,000 or more” (a specific broadband technology isn’t mentioned for this estimate).

The regulator also stated that a £3,400 threshold should achieve 99.8% coverage “while avoiding the exponential costs of the most expensive to reach premises“, which the Local Government Association (LGA) estimates would leave c.60,000 unserved by the USO (this is below BT’s estimate but still in roughly the same sort of ballpark).

The USO has now been in operation for several months, albeit at reduced effectiveness due to the COVID-19 crisis, and as a result we’re starting to see a growing list of USO requests that seem to fall outside of the cost threshold. The following examples represent those that cost more than the per premises threshold (i.e. the quotes have already subtracted the cost threshold, leaving a bigger bill left to pay).

NOTE: Quotes will often only apply to SOME of the community (clusters), particularly if it’s already partly served by an existing 10Mbps+ capable connection (FTTC, ADSL, 4G etc.).

Example USO Quotes (those not fully covered by the £3,400):

Llangwm (Monmouthshire), home to about 20 properties within a 200 metre radius of the quoted premises (100+ properties across the entire area), was quoted £30,000 to one resident.

Pandy (Ceiriog Valley, Wrexham) saw 11 individual properties each being quoted figures between £11,000 and £30,000. Most were about 4km from the nearest known fibre, but only two got the £30k quote and oddly they were 2km closer to that fibre than the others.

USO Quotes Received
TOTAL: £165,692.00

Locals were later informed that the community partnership (CFP) scheme was their only way forward – instead of the USO – and they, by comparison, had an initial quote of £150k for 58 properties. Residents noted that many of those 58 properties were miles away up in the hills on completely different circuits (often also with good 4G) and other properties did not exist (i.e. just plots or old sheds).

Residents have since updated Openreach with the correct information and added a few premises they missed. Once gigabit vouchers are added (only under a CFP) then the final quote is expected to be less than half the original, which just goes to show that you can never fully rely on the first quote to be accurate (i.e. if you can, do your own checking as a community first).

➠ Brentor (Devon), home to around 400 people (100+ premises), saw some individuals being given quotes of £42,000 to £45,000.

➠ Strathconon [general area] (Highlands), an extremely remote location in Scotland with 21 premises (mostly holiday cottages), saw one individual (John) being given a quote of £1.1m (let that sink in!). Despite this John was previously given a separate CFP quote by Openreach for the same area and that came in at £535k, although it also included two other nearby communities (80+ premises).

Meanwhile a “neighbour” about 2.8 miles away (via road) got a USO quote for only £160k, which reflected about 18 properties and is similarly remote. However, it’s hoped that Scotland’s 4G Infill Programme will soon complete a new mobile mast, which looks as if it may serve the area (it remains to be seen if that delivers 10Mbps+).

We have also seen various other quotes, but we don’t yet have enough information about all of them and in any case the trend is often similar to those listed above. Crucially, the process for handling these has revealed that BT’s messaging still needs some significant improvement.

In order to better illustrate these issues we’re going to pick out one example from Colin Dawes, who lives in the rural village of Brentor (mentioned above) on the edge of Dartmoor in Devon and take you through some of his story. A lot of what Colin has experienced is shared in common with others who have found themselves in this same boat.

Example USO Complaint from Rural Devon

Colin lives across an area of moorland currently served by a buried copper cable that also serves the rest of the village, but at present the best fixed broadband speed at his location is less than 5Mbps and there’s no viable mobile signal. Airband’s fixed wireless network is also nearby-ish but, due to tall trees, that isn’t an option for everybody.

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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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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58 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Ethan says:

    USO has been similarly disappointing for us with BT coming back to us with:

    Once again, I’m sorry that it took several months for us to get back to you with an estimate. This is longer than we expect.

    Your premises is eligible for a USO network build, but unfortunately Openreach have let us know that they can’t complete this under our cost threshold.

    It’s estimated that there would be between £80,000 and £90,000 plus VAT for you to pay, if you had decided to go ahead.

    This work would take around 18 months.

    Guess we’ll try to find a more stable 4G solution as Three’s 4G router is extremely unreliable for us and we’re not even in that rural of an area…

  2. Avatar photo TomD says:

    In our village new build houses have been mailed with the USO letter when actually they are covered by SuperfastEssex, or Openreach have plans for commercial coverage via FTTC.
    I do not know how many residents have requested (and paid for) a needless survey – some certainly – but the quotes I was shown (in semi-rural Essex where a rival already has a network) were steep.
    Looks to me another example of BT trying it on, to see if they can grab some USO funds when there’s already a plan for coverage.
    I’d recommend to anyone who has received a USO letter to check with their BDUK project whether there are actually coverage plans, before going any further with USO.

    1. Avatar photo Fastman says:

      be very surprised if there was any more FTTC being built (planned and built completely different

      they might be covered by FTTC in the village but was that postcode shown (and is the new build a new postcode that not covered (and does that development actually get any uplift ie up to 10 meg

      the fact that this has taken more time that expected suggests that the plan you refer to is now not happening or has been superceded by something else or someone else and therefore is not part of the intervention area (being delivered by Openreach) any more

      suggest you check that with superfast essex but as an aside aside you would expect someone to check first if they are covered by any government plan before asking for USO

      Looks to me another example of BT trying it on, to see if they can grab some USO funds – hilarious (this one) you clearly do not understand the make up of USO)

  3. Avatar photo Buggerlugz says:

    Never mind USO being expensive for some to get 10mb, The entire broadband industry’s offering of 100mb is too expensive for most people!

    The way broadband is now at the point where you have to lock yourself into a contract for up to 2 years just to get a half decent monthly premium, then you have to just expect a double price increases after that time or find an alternative.

    Its becoming the new car insurance model but without a no claims bonus. Home broadband shouldn’t get more expensive year on year but it is. Maybe if broadband companies were putting profits back into their respective companies it would be getting cheaper?

    The entire way that broadband is charged to home customers in the UK is broken.

    1. Avatar photo Gary says:

      Our speed tier pricing has little to do with the costs of the bandwidth, they’re numbers set at price points for either profit or competition for subscribers. Its just the same as the quote attributed to Ford motors ( IDK if its true) about why UK pricing was so much more than other countries where the quoted response was “Because that’s what they will pay”.

      The per Gb cost for data is tiny in physical transmission terms, I’d not realised how complicated this can get in reality, but there’s an excellent article from cloudflare where they try and explain, Allegedly Europe is one of the cheaper regions.

    2. Avatar photo MikeP says:

      There are providers who don’t lock you in to anything beyond 1 month.
      IDNet for one, if you go for a provider using Openreach for the final mile.
      Or, say, Jurassic Fibre for a new-build FTTP provider (OK, limited coverage so far – but it shows 24-month commitments aren’t everywhere).
      “Profit” – you have seen the cash burn needed to build a new network? Any sensible ROI is over a 30+ year timeframe.

  4. Avatar photo Gary says:

    Fantastic article Mark, thanks for all the effort pulling this together.

    Right from the start of the USO the farcical “legal right to request” element paved the way, We already had a legal right to request a service from OR or any of the other providers, Then as now they also had the right to refuse that request, Albeit now they have to provide a reason (cost usually) and offer you the chance to foot the bill.
    And this from Mark really highlights the pitiful state of the process…
    “After all, by the time a quote has been issued then the operator must have already know what technology is best to use.”
    Yes they may well run into problems that were not planned and costed in the quote but to be unable specify what the quote is to provide is a total joke. It’s at best an estimation and even then a vague one, but the 10Mbps+ capable element of the USO allowed for this.

    No doubt things will change slowly and over time it will get clearer as it already seems to be doing. But the seemingly random number generator for costs just carries on from FTTPod and the inclusion or exclusion of properties from plans sometimes looks like they threw a dart at a map and picked a random number.

  5. Avatar photo David Stamp says:

    Thank goodness for community dug and installed Gigabit FTTP broadband. Most rural communities are better off being self sufficient and doing their own FTTP project.

    1. Avatar photo Fastman says:

      who says you have to do that with Gigaclear – there are a number of operators doing that . actually openreach have been doing with communities for a number of years –

    2. Avatar photo James™ says:

      @fastman, David didn’t say Gigaclear

  6. Avatar photo Sam says:

    It sounds like a real mess. USO, R100, Voucher Schemes, CFP, Dig your own!

    I live in a rural area of Scotland. Surrounding villages got FTTC but BT wouldn’t run it the extra 4 miles to our community. We suffered in silence, at times literally, with ADSL.

    Then without us asking, Openreach started running FTTP through our community. This immediately raised a question in my mind about install costs, because whereas we all have bits of copper running to our houses we don’t have fibre.

    Fortunately for me the install cost was zero since the box in the road was outside my house and Openreach only needed to about 50m of ducting and fibre. However, a good many of my neighbours are facing bills of several hundred to several thousands of pounds for the final connection. Naturally many of them have declined – its not as if we all need faster BB, but just a more reliable and consistent connection.

    All the headlines saying how good the deployment rate is in rural areas should be qualified by the actual take up rate

  7. Avatar photo Meadmodj says:

    The answer is in the statement “The common theme in these cases appears to be driven by the fact that the current USO process seeks to maximise the efficiency of USO build by “clustering” potential USO customers onto a single fibre splitter where possible. Therefore when we receive a single request for USO we will seek to build a splitter based FTTP solution that addresses that customer and other USO customers in the same area”.

    Public awareness of USO is still very low and if BT are making assessments and spending hours providing quotes on what is drifting sand thats the issue.

    My view is that we should by now be able to identify using existing data by each UK residence what speed they are currently achieving and what options are currently available to them.

    The BDUK, WG etc should public clear plans, not by area, not by post code but by premises.
    Network providers annoucing implementations within the next 12 months should also provide clear plans, not vague proposals, not by area, not by post code but by premise.
    Ofcom should also review 4G coverage maps/capacity with the mobile providers as they are inaccurate.

    Data is the key here as we should be able to identify all the USO premises not just those that request it. This would mean BT’s assessments/planning would be more efficient and the cost per premise hopefully reduced avoiding rework later. It should also avoid first on the block pays.

    BT was the only provider to take up the USO obligation so they should have the first bite but if they cannot provide a FTTP solution to the above identified premises by the end of 2021 (commitment now) then it should be open to the smaller Altnets to bid for them and be granted funds (from vouchers or other).

    The USO is supposed to provide a socially inclusive and effective broadband to all UK citizens. This needs to be done front loaded by the end of next year and in parallel to the sprouting fibre aspirations being developed by committee.

    Currently the USO is failing to provide what was intended, wasting valuable time/resource and increasing the haves and have not divide in rural communities.

    1. Avatar photo Buggerlugz says:

      How about nationalizing BT, that’d solve the issue really nicely! 🙂

    2. Avatar photo joe says:


      Only as a plan to set the process back years

    3. Avatar photo A_Builder says:

      I would certainly agree that better modelling will help with understanding the costs distribution better.

      For many years OR resisted publishing line length and performance data and now this is certainly extant.

      The issue is how do you relate line length to build cost: unless you simply overlay copper with fibre you can’t. OK this might give a first approximation: but it will be on the high side.

      In the alternative you produce the purists, fresh dig, FTTP solution ignoring the existing network layouts – that doesn’t work as you end up with a massive and off putting bill.

      The question I would pose is “how do you end up with a pragmatic but generalised network layout, defined by a few basic parameters?” Honestly, I’m not sure you can.

      Then on top of that you have the very isolated premises that are effectively very long single fibres back to the node.

      All that said, the lack of information does make it far harder to understand the totality of the obstacles, financial and otherwise, faced.

  8. Avatar photo NGA for all says:

    This is missing several elephants. 1.) There is no industry fund to operate the USO so BT is inclined to quote >£3,400 for any USO quotes unless it 4G. 2) There is the £788m capital Deferral in BT’s accounts which should be used to contract the remaining 600k premises in England and 3) there is as yet no public record of a uniform BT capital contribution to allowable costs for all the BDUK projects. The latter needs to be extended to the community partnerships.

  9. Avatar photo Guy Cashmore says:

    Its a great article Mark and accurately reflects what I’m hearing on the ground here in rural Devon. Let’s just hope a few people from OFCOM and government read it and start taking some action against BT Group. As usual BT is putting far more effort into gaming the system for financial reward than delivering the public service the law requires them to.

    1. Avatar photo The Facts says:

      @GC – which law requires them to deliver a public service when there are many companies with code powers?

    2. Avatar photo The Facts says:

      Or do you mean the USO, what does the small print say?

    3. Avatar photo Fastman says:


      So how many patents offered to bid on uso went through formal.tendering process to be a uso provider

      Answer none of them because it’s hard and horrible and anyone under 3400 gets resolved

      Si a shed load of work for little or no reward

    4. Avatar photo GNewton says:

      TheFacts: Why are you so keen on defending BT here again? Clearly customers are being let down here with the lack of proper telecom services, the USO has flaws here. This country is hopelessly backwards with regards to fibre telecom services, and BT has been a longstanding tragedy here in the past!

  10. Avatar photo Biobob says:

    I requested information from the 4 companies listed that cover my rural area, all 4 came back and said they dont cover the area. BT offered a leased line for £600 a month. Pretty pointless giving a legal right to something that has no enforcement ADSL is 0.5mbs well under anything useful and would cost in excess of £30/ month so a double rip off. I cancelled long ago and use a 4G router from three which is getting worse and worse especially if the router connects to the stronger B20 800 frequency which throughputs at 2mbs and I have to keep disabling it with software on an android tablet. The whole thing is a total mess.

    1. Avatar photo Buggerlugz says:

      You can use LTEHMonitor on your pc to set your router to ignore band 20 and specify bands 1 and/or 3

  11. Avatar photo saf says:

    I dont understand why Openreach do not permit ISPs to order bonding on their ADSL lines for those who are not getting USO speeds. This ought to be at no cost to the user. By combining two lines would double the speeds the user is currently experiencing. That would be a stop gap until some iteration of fibre is installed for residents without high speed connections.

    1. Avatar photo joe says:

      Its a pretty useless solution.

      Finite numbers of lines, crosstalk and anything up to 20% loss of capacity/per line. If you’re well sub 10 you’re prob not going to reach USO anyway.

      And for all this additional cost to the ISP you want them to provide it subsidised….!

  12. Avatar photo Mark D says:

    I live on a new build development that sits 4 miles from the centre of Birmingham. The site is 5 years old and surrounded by roads who can access Virgin media and FTTC from Openreach. We just missed out on Fibre due to the timing of the original planning application and so the only broadband we can get is traditional ADSL which runs at around 1.5mbps. Our estate, which sits in the middle of a densely populated urban area of Birmingham has Fibre capable ducting in place and is connected to an old non fibre exchange just shy of 2 miles away. We have been quoted £260,000 for a community funded fibre solution for a development of 200 houses, so well over £1000 per property; a compete non starter. BT can only offer a 4G option which most houses now use under USO. 4G isn’t really good enough as a full home broadband solution, it drops in and out and connection speeds are very variable. We have campaigned to our MP, local councillors, Virgin and Openreach and hit brick wall after brick wall. Can anyone offer any advice?

    1. Avatar photo Fastman says:

      So how many premises did you ask for in your quote all of them in the development or just a few premises . What exchange is this and is thre any fttp already in the exchange

      Quite or initial.esitimate ?

      You sure that’s the right figure

    2. Avatar photo GNewton says:

      Fastman: Why should a customer have to do a campaign in the first place? The telecoms are the failure here! Or are you asking because you want to sell a telecom service?

    3. Avatar photo Buggerlugz says:

      How can you live in a fairly new build right near a city centre and the building company of the estate didn’t put in cable or fibre? Just how?

    4. Avatar photo Fastman says:

      developer will have been paid to have the infrastructure that was put in

  13. Avatar photo TheUnacknowledged says:

    I think it would also be good to note the inextricable cost of BT’s 4g connection. Which seems to be priced with the sole intention of putting people off taking it out. As on the surface of things it seems to be charging more than double that of other providers e.g. £26 pm for unlimited 4g broadband from three vs £50 pm for only 500GB from BT (noting that 500GB is the maximum data allowance offered and thus either excluding high users from the USO or forcing them to take out 2 contracts. £100 pm I think not!!) So why the huge difference in price? The answer i believe is the lesser advertised stipulation of the USO, Contention Ratio. So while with Three I can get speeds of upto 30Mb/s at 4:00am during the day I usually manage only 6-8 during “Office Hours” & even less during peak Netflix binge hours. However should I switch to BT I would have to be guaranteed a contention ratio of less than 50:1 thereby guaranteeing more consistent speeds (Note I have not yet tested this due to the exorbitant costs however this is what I have been lead to believe through conversations with BT & Ofcom). So in synopsis USO is unavailable to anyone who lives more than a few miles from the nearest fibre exchange as it’s to expensive , unavailable to anyone who lives within a 4G enabled area who uses more than 500GB as no tariff is offered. I can only hope that Starlink development continues as I suspect for many of us this will be the only viable solution for a long while yet until BT, Openreach & our government get their act together.

  14. Avatar photo Buggerlugz says:

    4g if implemented better here in the UK would be more than enough speed for most people. Instead we’re left with a totally underfunded make-do approach to 4g bandwidth delivery which provides 30Mbps on average or worse, when it should provide 100Mbps.

    I gave up on fibre and cable a long time ago. It’ll always be too expensive, the future would be in 4g/5g if the UK companies were made to install it and provide the back-haul to support it more efficiently and effectively, but they don’t.

    I really hope Star-link proves to be the solution for many of us and a way to get away from the majority of UK ISP’s providing a generally poor quality and oversubscribed expensive broadband service.

    1. Avatar photo Mark says:

      Your dream is a long way off, if at all, 4g or 5g isn’t it will never by reliable to replace a cable, just too many variables, and also not everyone is covered, there are communities who don’t want a mobile signal, so some of us are stuck with copper or maybe a fibre solution one day, my area has several thousand population.

  15. Avatar photo Optimist says:

    Why bother with fibre for remote areas when LEO satellite systems are about to be deployed?

    1. Avatar photo joe says:

      Its an inferior solution.

    2. Avatar photo Rural Fermanagh says:

      @Optimist: Yes, why would the rural scum want a stable, low latency, high bandwith data connection like the rest of us. Let them eat cake!

    3. Avatar photo Optimist says:

      Please explain why you consider a it to be inferior?

    4. Avatar photo Gary says:

      @ Optimist,

      Go read up on starlink and work it out for your self, its an inferior solution period. I’d say it isn’t rocket science but technically it kind of is.

    5. Avatar photo Gary says:

      @Optimist, would you care to define ‘rural areas’ Is a town of 10,000 people with already present fibre backhaul rural ? well yes possibly depending on what classification you look at, Or are you assuming that rural means scattered farms in rolling green hills miles from the nearest post office or Vets surgery.

    6. Avatar photo Optimist says:

      I didn’t say “rural” but “remote” by which I meant the areas where it is expensive to provide fibre.
      I have read up on Starlink, I have seen various predictions of its performance, some of which seem quite good. If you have definitive information, please post a link, that would be appreciated, thanks.

  16. Avatar photo Rural Fermanagh says:

    I have 4G with multiple providers from different masts, used 1 at a time with a roof mounted external antenna and dedicated router – I get 4 to 5 out of 5 bars.
    My speeds vary wildly, even run directly after each other from one test to another ranging from 1Mbit – 7Mbit up, and 0.06Mbit to 6.9Mbit down. There is no obvious pattern except that when there is bad weather it is always the worst.
    The BT USO cannot guarantee my speed will be consistently over 10 Mbit, unless I sign up for a 24 month contact to their over priced and data limited product (500GB/£50 per month). So I have to pay £1200 to find out if it will work, and then will maybe get on the USO. If it does work, I will need 2x – so £100 per month!
    When I went to Ofcom they support this stance, absolutely shocking!
    The BT community fibre, want me to canvas the neighbours, but cannot give a ball park figure of the likely cost, which is like saying “If you have to ask the price, you cannot afford it”
    Rural communities are tax payers too, and we are being socially excluded and discriminated against.
    Ofcom’s mission is to make communications work for everyone*.
    *Note: This excludes rural consumers.

    1. Avatar photo 1pf says:

      We have been waiting for Fastershire to get around to arranging the install here for 7 years and they fail to sort it out time and time again…..but…tried 3 for a while then they had an outage and things were not the same again really poor speed akin to BT and our fab 3mbs….anywho now use Voxi Vodafone) unlimited data in a Tplink for £30 per month. Speeds vary between 18 and 50 so pleased overall, now also use VOIP over the same link and have said goodbye to BT completely. If Fastershire and Gigaclear ever get Thier acts together I may switch over but if not then no probs.

    2. Avatar photo Fastman says:


      The community team will.nee the area you want covering as the gap.which is different between commercial.threshold and build will depend on what you want covered and how many premises. And what the network build requited to.build that. Without that information you could get the wrong answer badly big time

  17. Avatar photo Buggerlugz says:

    Ofcom’s mission is to make communications work for everyone*.

    * So the 1% can get even wealthier providing a poor quality service provision all the while fleecing the general public with the inadequate broadband.

  18. Avatar photo w says:

    Excellent article Mark. Thank you.

    I was quoted between £40,000 and £50,000 to upgrade my local network.

    Makes me wonder how far £3400 would actually go? Probably just a couple of days work of digging across the road. I can’t imagine it would actually cover the cost of anyone living in rural areas.

    1. Avatar photo Brian says:

      Not much. When we had a phone line installed 16 years ago (mobile option not really available then). To cross a very minor road, supply 650m of cable (self installed), and connect both ends came to £4500, so £1100 excess construction costs payable.

  19. Avatar photo TheUnacknowledged says:

    Spoken to Ofcom & BT & both confirm they have reserved “Capacity” specifically for 4g broadband in order to account for the 50:1 contention ratio issue, see here


    Annex 1 section 1.9

    And on the subject of data caps there is also another tier to BT’s 4g broadband that is apparently not advertised.. £60 for unlimited
    I’ve signed the dotted line & will be conducting some thorough testing within my 14 day cooling off period.. as scandalous as the price maybe!! It does seem the only option at the present time so will report back how it fares.

    1. Avatar photo JTScotland says:

      Any reason why you wouldn’t go for ee’s unlimited data sim which is ‘only’ £35pm?

  20. Avatar photo TheUnacknowledged says:

    JTScotland As far as I’m aware EE are not bound to the same Contention ratio issue so the network congestion issue might still apply. (I’d have to test it no be sure but that’s the reason I’m moving away from three) although there is an EE branch just round the corner so I might grab a sim & test it if the speeds with the BT one are reasonable.

  21. Avatar photo OS says:

    Another article should be written on the high cost of USO options full stop. There’s more than a degree of milking the desperate in the tariffs for some of these BT 4g stop gaps.

  22. Avatar photo Jonney Bendall says:

    How can Openreach quote BT for a USO quote to connect a property for £11,900 plus £3,400 Total £15,300 to connect a house 10 yards from a live Fibre Track joint?????
    Its just plainly wrong or Openreach trying it on…… and BT supporting it.
    I know I’m a Network ludite in understanding but what am i missing?

    1. Avatar photo Fastman says:

      because an FTTP connection has to go back to a headend in a suitable exchange services , that joint might not got to right exchange headend, it might not be the right type of fibre, it migth not be the right kind of joint there might not be any capacity there a ar, it might not lead back to an aggregation node there are are multitude of things that may be dependant.

  23. Avatar photo Edward says:

    Had a quote of £50,000 per household in rural East Staffordshire. Community fibre scheme final price came in at £35,000. What is the extra £15,000 for? Answers on a postcard please.

    Our neighbours in a community of 1,000+ less than half a mile away all have full FTTP for ‘free’ where as around 20 of us have been told to pay up or foxtrot oscar. As someone else mentioned, rural communities are now becoming have and have nots with the have nots footing an extortionate bill.

    I’ve also complained to the Ombudsman but I wouldn’t waste your breath – they offered me £30 as compensation for the ‘inconvenience caused’. Couldn’t have done less to solve the problem at hand.

    Also spoken to our local MP who has raised it in parliament but again, I’m really not going to get my hopes up.

    I really hoped in 2020 and when I bought my house I wouldn’t be still running a 1mbps ADSL line for at least the next 5 years with no date in sight for even a slightly faster connection.

    This country, Openreach and government are an absolute disgrace.

  24. Avatar photo Dee Scusted says:

    USO have bothered to waste paper, their time (who is paying for this), my time, to send me a letter telling me about the scheme.Of course I went through the motions – same as my neighbours – only to be told 2 months later than the cost to upgrade our service would be £100k plus (presumably each – the idiot on the phone couldnt tell me). What an absolute travesty and scam this whole thing is. They have no intention of helping. Absolutely infuriated by the whole thing – why send letters round everyone when they ikely knew fine well of the extorionate cost – d they expect us homeowners to pay for the unfit for purpose infrastructure? I cant even make a decent phone call from my house – just told its an old copper connection and unlikely to be fixed or improved. I could stick a 4G mast on my land and run fibre from there – reckon I could do it for under £2k. Would the scheme cover the costs of that? I won’t hold my breath!!!

    1. Avatar photo Douglas Fairbank says:

      Our experience was very similar to yours but some of us asked for a detailed breakdown anyway and when it came through the price had fallen to £375, total for the whole community, not individually as first thought. We are now in the queue. Don’t give up!
      One strange thing though, when accepting the quote we were told that a bill would be sent, we waited for a while but nothing came, however the bill was accidentally found in a new but initially invisible BT account with a very short expiry date for acceptance. Had it not been for this happy accident we would have lost our chance.

  25. Avatar photo Vax says:

    I’ve been battling through the USO process for the last six and a half months. This is on behalf of my Mum & Dad who live in a hamlet of 21 properties in Somerset. After many twists and turns we finally received a quote of just under £79k for total homes passed = 1, which I have had to dispute ☹

    1. Discounting 4G Mobile as an option

    BT Mobile’s technical team confirmed to me over the telephone that the 4G mast serving the area is incapable of meeting the USO technical specification, even in lab conditions with a 4G modem situated next to the mast. This is because the allocated spectrum or backhaul connection speed is too low to sustain a 10 Mbps connection. They were not willing to put this in writing, only to convey it to me and USO helpdesk verbally.

    Despite the availability of this information BT required my parents to go through the futile exercise of ordering, testing and returning a 4G hub before they would accept the unsuitability of 4G as an Alternative Broadband Service.

    In tests the best speeds we were able to achieve were 2.56 Mbps down and 0.58 Mbps up. Latency was observed at up to 810ms, which does not meet the USO standard of “latency which is capable of allowing the End-user to make and receive voice calls over the connection effectively”.

    Nonetheless, BT continue to equate any 4G coverage to a viable Alternative Broadband Service without making any reference to the specific capabilities of the network in the area.

    2. Discounting Fixed Line Broadband (VDSL) as an option

    20 of 21 premises in the hamlet have speed predictions that straddle the USO specification of 10 Mbps down and 1 Mbps up (source: BT DSL checker). This means at the lower end of the predicted speed range they would be USO eligible, but at the upper end they would not.

    BT’s approach is to use the highest predicted speed in all cases. They then build on this flawed assumption to assert that these properties already have access to an Alternative Broadband Service and so are not USO eligible.

    Let’s take two local properties as examples:

    • Property A: BT say it’s not eligible for the USO because it receives predicted speeds of up to 13.9 Mbps. Their own DSL checker confirms that the highest sync speed ever recorded at this address is 8.13 Mbps download, but they ignore this information!

    • Property B: BT say it’s not eligible for the USO because it receives predicted speeds of up to 12.5 Mbps. Their own DSL checker confirms that the highest sync speed ever recorded at this address is 9.13 Mbps download, but they ignore this information!

    3. Failure to properly apply Demand Aggregation rules

    Although the USO scheme is indeed based on individual requests for individual premises the status of other premises in the neighbourhood (i.e. whether they are eligible for the USO or not) has a very material impact on quoted costs. For example, using the formula set out in Ofcom’s condition B.8, a network quoted at £79k when it is assumed to serve just one eligible property reduces to as little as £11k if it serves 21, a reduction of 86%.

    Unfortunately, Ofcom’s USO Service Conditions and Regulations fail to define the terms “Potentially Eligible Premises” and “Relevant Premises” used in Condition B.8.

    BT’s approach is to minimise the number of eligible properties by continuing to treat any premises with predicted 4G coverage or a top end predicted fixed line broadband speed above 10 Mbps as ineligible for the USO. This is without reference to other information held or established through the USO process (e.g. in paragraphs 1 and 2 above).

    For example, running a check on my parents’ property at https://www.bt.com/broadband/USO shows it as ineligible, even though after great struggle its eligibility has already been proven and accepted by BT through the USO process.

    4. Inability to challenge BT’s assessment of third-party premises

    As established in paragraph 3 above, the eligibility or otherwise of neighbouring third-party properties is crucial to accurately calculating a quote. BT seem to have taken steps to ensure that that there is no way to challenge their assumptions.

    BT assert that I cannot make USO requests on behalf of other addresses and point-blank refuse to accept such requests from me, to the extent of labelling me a nuisance caller and hanging up on my inbound calls.

    There is nothing in the Ofcom regulations that limits the legal right to decent broadband or access to the USO scheme in this way. BT have introduced their own filter to try and limit requests (ref para 3.1 of their terms at https://www.bt.com/broadband/usoterms). Is this legal?

    As well as ensuring there is no way to challenge the eligibility status of neighbouring properties it has the effect of stopping tenants from accessing the USO scheme. This surely cannot have been Ofcom’s intention?

    5. Failure to quote for most economic network solution

    BT have quoted for a 4km long connection to a fibre port (undisclosed location) but seem not to have considered a cheaper subtended head end solution served from the local PCP which is just(!) 1.8km away.

    The cloak of commercial confidentiality makes impossible to have confidence that the solution quoted for is the most economic one to serve the area.

    Further, why have BT quoted for a solution to serve one property when we can clearly see that at least two other properties in the hamlet are USO eligible? On any reasonable assumption it seems clear that at least 14 properties in the immediate neighbourhood are eligible, and that number could potentially be as high as all 21. However, there is no way to challenge any of this.

    All in all, feeling a bit let down by the USO.

  26. Avatar photo Christopher Bell says:

    We live in rural Devon. We have two phone lines: ADLS2 on #1 gives about 4MB/s down, 0.6MB/s up, VDSL on #2 about 2.8MB/s down, 0.4MB/s up. Same exchange, same cables going down the lane, apparently cheapo modern aluminium wiring somewhere on the 2nd line, older but better copper on the first.

    There is no indoors mobile reception at all, but 2G is available if you climb into our tree-house.

    So we are USO eligible and I asked for a quote: £30k – £35k was the initial estimate, would Sir like to take it further? Er, no thanks.

    I’m glad we have mains electricity. Imagine if that were being installed today, we would probably get 12v (+/-9) at 1 amp! Even more extraordinary: the electricity people maintain their network properly, replacing cables and poles
    when required, and provide a service that is 99.9999% reliable at the stated voltage. My service charge for this is less than 20p/day.

    OpenReach, on the other hand, who are delivering 48v at a few milliamps, have rickety infrastructure that they totally neglect, only (reluctantly and tardily) maintaining it when it fails. And then it is only the most minimal patch and mend they can get away with. My line rental is over 30p/day.

    OK, I can understand that they have lost interest in the legacy copper network because the whole world is moving to fibre … except that their move to fibre is utterly glacial. How I wish we could string fibre along the electricity poles! C

  27. Avatar photo John Newell says:

    The example for Llangwm came from me. Since then, a DCMS funded ( £1500 per property) FTTP is being installed, and I expect to go live in a few weeks. Meanwhile, a letter from BT arrived a few days ago, which recognised the absurdity of one USO customer paying for connecttion, and then everyonee else connected for free. They are working with OFCOM for a solution.
    However, since the USO rules meant that the availability of an alternative ( i.e. the DCMS funded FTTP) excludes BT from supplying a USO conection, it is all rather pointless.
    You couldn’t make it up

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