The government's plans to deliver superfast broadband are pure fallacy
The coalition government has set a number of objectives to tackle the UK's broadband divide, including plans to deliver superfast broadband across the UK by 2015.
But while the government's commitment to universal and superfast broadband is certainly very welcome, the underlying question still remains: who is going to end up paying?
It plans to drive private sector investment by making regulatory changes to bring down the cost of the rollout. But Jeremy Hunt, the culture secretary, faces the fundamental issue of how to persuade telecoms companies to spend money installing commercially unviable networks in more rural areas.
When the Digital Britain report was published in June last year, the Labour government pledged to provide a minimum speed of 2Mbps to all UK homes by 2012. It also proposed a £1 billion 'Next Generation Fund' to deliver next-generation broadband to 90% of the country by 2017.
However, the coalition government has abolished Labour's plans to fund the rollout with a £0.50 a month broadband tax levied on fixed phone lines, sparking concerns that the broadband sector will have to fund this improvement itself.
Broadband providers have been quick defend the speed and service they offer. Here's what the providers have to say for themselves:
“BT gives customers the most consistently accurate prediction of the speed they are likely to get, before they place their order,” says a BT spokesperson.
A spokesperson for Orange says it is the company's ambition to develop “Britain's best home broadband service. We've launched a new Broadband Excellence programme, part of which allows us to introduce a comprehensive speed improvement within the next 12 months for all customer's lines”.
Meanwhile, a Sky spokesperson points out that analyst SamKnows recently confirmed Sky offer the most consistent 20Mbps speeds of any major provider.
“That's why we ensure Sky broadband unlimited is the best value truly unlimited service, with no hidden traffic shaping or fair use policies,” he says.
A spokesperson for Plusnet says the company prides itself on being open about speed and service.
“Customer service is at the core of what we do, and we are open and honest, letting our customers know when they reach 90% of their monthly download limit so there are no surprises,” he says.
“We also offer a flexible contract option, and if customers have to leave us, we believe in making this as simple as possible.”
In May, 02 launched its “Niggles and Narks” campaign to highlight the common problems with broadband service.
“I absolutely believe customers should be given accurate information andsold a product that does exactly what it says,” says,” says Felix Geyr, headof broadband at O2.
“But what customers really deserve is transparency in terms of line speed. Whether it is poor customer service, hidden costs, or poor speed advice, it is up to the providers to show they care and want to banish these issues for good.
After its acquisition of Tiscali in 2009, TalkTalk has become one of theworst providers in the market with one in three (33%) of their customers dissatisfied with its service, according to a uSwitch survey.
However, its spokesperson says things are now changing for the better. “Ofcom's latest figures showed that our customers' average speeds are increasing, which is good news.
"We give our customers information on the likely speed they will actually be able to receive in their postcode area before they join TalkTalk, so they know what they are signing up for. We were the first ISP to provide customers with this information, a policy Ofcom subsequently made part of the code.”
Are you with any of the broadband providers above? Let us know what you think of their service in the comments field below.