The communications regulator Ofcom   has this week found that the average broadband speed in rural areas is an average of 3.3 Megabits per second (Mbps), compared to the 4.6 Mbps delivered to urban customers. This has prompted campaigners to suggest that slow and unreliable internet access will have a severely adverse effect on rural businesses.

57% of broadband users are told that they can expect speeds of ‘up to’ 8 Mbps, but the Ofcom research found that in reality they received half the advertised maximum speed – 4.1Mbps. Furthermore the investigation found that no broadband customers were in fact receiving the top download speeds advertised by the country’s largest internet service providers. (ISPs)

The maximum capacity advertised is in fact reserved for technical reasons, and therefore cannot possibly be received by customers. – The highest possible speed available is in fact 7.2 Mbps – and that is only if the customer lived near to the telephone exchange through which their connection is routed.

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By 2012, the Government’s Digital Britain white paper aims to make a 2 Mbps minimum speed available to all homes in the UK.

Ofcom said in its report ‘there has been a lack of reliable information on the actual speeds delivered by ISPs’. Their six-month study involved over  60 million broadband performance tests in 1,600 homes, and concluded that the average broadband speed in the UK in April was 4.1 Mbps. The report went on to say that ‘if rural businesses are to reach their full potential we believe it is essential that Government ensure their commitment to broadband for all becomes a reality for speeds of up to at least 5-10 mbps by 2012.’

Henry Aubrey-Fletcher, president of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) said that he found it ‘hard to believe that rural areas can even get an average of 3.3 Mbps when we know that 25 to 30% either cannot gain access to adequate and affordable broadband or have an ineffective broadband service.’

Ofcom also added that customers who get their internet through a standard copper wire (known as a DSL connection) receive significantly slower speeds than those on cable broadband.

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