Is Theresa May serious about sorting out rural broadband?

BT boss Gavin Patterson has threatened 10 years of litigation if the government forces through structural separation, which critics say is the only way to improve its service. Only time will tell how far the prime minister is prepared to go

Is broadband as bad as Theresa May’s party conference speech implied?

Nearly. Her complaint that “half of people living in rural areas, and so many small businesses, can’t get a decent broadband connection” is probably based on a report produced by the regulator Ofcom last year, which is now a little out of date. Ofcom found 1.5m rural premises – about half of the total – could not get the basic speed needed to watch video and support multiple devices such as tablets, phones and smart TVs. The regulator said it would be another three years before all these premises get the 10 megabits per second (Mbps) it considers a minimum for modern users. Things have improved since then, thanks to the taxpayer-funded BDUK scheme to wire up the countryside. The total suffering from slow connections has fallen to 25% across all rural areas, though half of those living in hamlets are still below 10Mbps. Business parks have also complained of being left out. Ofcom said last year that only 68% of small and medium-sized businesses have superfast, with some 400,000 still waiting. The problem is not confined to rural areas. BT’s superfast broadband roll-out, which has now reached 90% of all homes and businesses, is bypassing those living in tall buildings – from council tower blocks to highrise luxury flats.

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