Research has discovered that around 3 million, or 15 percent of homes in the United Kingdom, have broadband speeds of less than 2Mbit/s, starkly illustrating the scale of the Government's task to guarantee a minimum of 2Mbit/s broadband for all UK households.
Back in February, the interim 'Digital Britain' report compiled by Lord Carter for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, contained more than 20 recommendations, including specific proposals on next generation networks. It also committed to a universal access to broadband for all UK households, with speeds of no less than 2Mbit/s by 2012. At the time, the report faced strong criticism for the pledge to such a slow broadband speed.
But research, commissioned by the BBC, has revealed that parts of the UK are not only plagued by slow broadband speeds, but also suffer from no broadband at all, so-called 'not spots'. It found that under 1 percent of homes in the UK cannot get any broadband at all.
Even more startling is the fact that these not spots are not just limited to rural communities, but includes many suburban areas and parts of major towns.
The broadband comparison website SamKnows compiled a map that shows the areas in the UK where there is no broadband availability, or broadband with less than 2Mbit/s.
The map was created by comparing a sample of UK postcodes with a database of information about which providers offered services in the 5,500 telephone exchange around the UK. In order to get a line speed of 2Mbit/s or more, homes and businesses need to be located closer than 4km (2.4 miles) from a telephone exchange.
The research found for example that in Basingstoke, 50 percent of telephone lines are more than six kilometres (3.7 miles) from the exchange, and in the entire county of Hampshire, a quarter of postcodes there get less than 1Mbit/s.
It is also well known that large parts of Milton Keynes, one of the UK's fastest growing towns, has suffered for years from exceptionally poor broadband speeds and has been plagued by not spots. But this is most due to the fact that most of Milton Keynes has aluminium cabling, and not copper, which transmits signals far better than aluminium, especially over longer distances.
Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) or fibre to the home (FTTH) has often been touted as a way to ensure faster broadband speeds, but replacing the copper lines with fibre optic cable will be a very expensive exercise.
Indeed, BT said last year it would spend £1.5bn pounds ($2.4 billion) rolling out super fast broadband to 10 million (or 40 percent) of UK homes by 2012, although it made clear that the move was dependent on UK telecoms regulator Ofcom ensuring that there is a proper regulatory framework in place that allows it to get a decent return on the investment.
"The UK has better broadband availability than most G8 countries with 99 percent coverage," a BT spokeswoman told Techworld. "And over 60 percent of UK homes have chosen to get broadband."
"We are world-leading with broadband availability in the UK, and in regard to not spots, we continue to invest in solutions to that problem, and are working with local authorities and others to address those issues," she added.
"We are also hoping that the I-Plate will be a simple solution that will play a small part for those customers that live a long way from telephone exchanges and experience slow broadband line speeds," she said. "We continue to make proactive network improvements where they are practical."
Meanwhile it seems that UK customers will have to wait for the finalised version of Lord Carter's Digital Britain report, which is due out next month, to see how government proposes to address the slow line speed and not spot issue.