Ofcom’s latest Connected Nations report has put a spotlight on the digital divide in the UK. The study reveals that more than 1.4 million homes are still struggling to get a decent broadband connection.
While it's not great news that around 5% of premises are still in the slow lane for internet access, the report does show that coverage is getting better. The same report last year stated that 2.4 million people were stuck below 10Mb, so around a million more people do have access to fibre optic broadband as we edge towards 2017. That's progress!
Even better, the average download speed has increased from 29Mb to 37Mb - a combination of improved fibre availability and more people switching to superfast packages. That's borne out by the finding that there are around 1.1 million more fibre users in the UK than last year.
Even so, a million plus people still living without good broadband is, in Ofcom's own words, "unacceptable". Many of those unsupported premises are in rural locations, with 920,000 too far from the exchange to get a reasonable speed.
The government has promised to ensure that everyone in the UK has access to at least 10Mb broadband, so clearly those areas will need some investment to achieve that. An alternative solution to fixed line broadband may be mobile, but the Ofcom report reveals that despite strong growth in coverage, weaknesses remain.
Currently, 72% of premises in the UK can get 4G - up from just 28% in 2015. Even so, large swathes of the UK geographically remain unsupported, and black spots with no signal at all continue to be a problem in rural areas.
Ofcom's Steve Unger said: "Mobile and broadband coverage continued to grow this year, but too many people and businesses are still struggling for a good service. We think that is unacceptable.
"We're challenging mobile operators to go beyond built-up areas, and provide coverage across the UK's countryside and transport networks. Today we've also provided technical advice to support the Government's plans for universal, decent broadband."
Source: Financial Times