Why is broadband more expensive in rural areas?

Why is broadband in rural areas more expensive icon

I was trying to change my broadband recently and found that it costs loads more in my area than the rest of the country. Is that right? How’s that fair?

Mick, via email

You’re quite right, Mick. And unfortunately, the situation isn’t very fair. While the vast majority pay around the same for broadband, some people do have to pay more than in other parts of the country.

It's all to do with infrastructure, you see. Read on, and I'll explain why things cost more in parts of the UK, reveal which providers don't increase charges in these areas (spoiler: John Lewis Broadband) and offer a few alternative ways to get online.

Why is my broadband more expensive?

The UK is split up into two separate broadband markets, called - rather unimaginatively - Market A and Market B.

Market A covers just under 10% of the UK population. Broadband will typically be more expensive, and many of the offers and deals that providers advertise won't be available to people in this category. Sounds like this is where you live Mick.

Market B covers the rest of the UK - just over 90%. Prices are cheaper than Market A, there's more choice available, and healthy competition drives an ongoing price war that keeps things (mostly) affordable

Rural village

Why is Market A more expensive?

Most broadband providers, including TalkTalk, Sky and Plusnet, share the same basic infrastructure - maintained by BT Openreach. Each pays to use that network, but installs their own technology in telephone exchanges. These are often referred to as local loop unbundled (LLU) providers - because technology companies love making things sound more complicated than necessary.

If a provider has their technology in an area, it means they can offer a better service and - importantly - better prices. Unfortunately, that's not the case in parts of the UK where low populations, challenging geography, or limited commercial potential make companies less willing to invest in infrastructure.

It's more expensive for providers to offer services in those areas, as they can't use their own tech, so those extra costs are passed onto the customers.

And, yes, if you're unfortunate enough to be in Market A, it can be frustrating.

What can I do about it?

While most providers charge extra for those in super-rural areas, at least one doesn't: John Lewis Broadband.

John Lewis Broadband

While it's best known for its massive department stores, the company also offers broadband, and has for some time. There's a good deal to recommend it - including UK-based customer service - but, most crucially, its packages are the same price regardless of where you live.

That means no extra charge for those in Market A - a fact that for some of you will be more uplifting than one of its Christmas ads.

John Lewis sells three packages (though if you're in a high-cost area, chances are you can't get the fibre ones) and you can compare them here:

Other options

Outside of that, you're limited by the options you have available. If your broadband costs more in that area, that's what you'll have to pay. You can at least search for the best possible deal by using a comparison service like ours to see all your options.

Alternatively, you could look for another way to get internet access. For example, mobile broadband could offer a cheaper way to get online in some cases.

It's not a perfect solution - speeds will fluctuate more than home broadband, and there aren't any unlimited mobile broadband deals available so you'll have to content with monthly usage limits. It will also be less suitable for things like video streaming and gaming. But if you compare your options carefully, you may be able to save a few pounds.

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