A personal experience  -  by Elaine Pooler

Purely from personal experience, broadband speeds in the countryside seem not only to depend on how rural your location is but also on luck or lack of it!  Luck as to which BT cabinet you are connected to (you may find your next door neighbour is connected to a different one) and luck as to how far you are located from that cabinet in terms of the length of cabling (you may also find the cable does not run straight from the cabinet to your property but may take the scenic route depending on when your property was built compared to its neighbours or at least when the telephone lines were erected/ laid underground).

Recently a group of my neighbours attempted to improve our excruciatingly slow broadband (approximately 0.5Mbps), which barely allowed e-mails to be opened let alone catch-up TV or streaming, which most of us considered to be a privilege afforded only to “townies”.  We met with a willing local Councillor and MLA who tried to point us in the right direction in terms of dealing with BT, looking at other types of broadband (satellite and mobile/3G) and access to grants and voucher schemes to contribute to costs.  Most of us had already tried or were perservering with alternatives to ADSL cabled broadband (usually with BT) but all options seem to have issues, mainly the huge cost of a small monthly allowance of data, and reception is often an issue (our house is in “a dip” but a near neighbour is at the top of a hill).  Satellite broadband is no use for online gaming as there is a delay in signal so our teenage son had resorted to connecting his PC to the hotspot on his mobile & hanging the phone out through the window…

The Community Fibre scheme offered by BT Openreach is a possibility for some (small and large) groups of residents, whereby BT Openreach will cover some of the costs but the residents need to form a group willing to cover the rest.  Part way through our enquiries into this, we discovered that fibre broadband was coming to a cabinet near us.  Our road is numbered 1 to 120, but there are roughly 50 properties located there.  Only properties below number 80 are connected to the cabinet that was to be fibre enabled and of these, only properties below number 40 were going to be able to access “decent speeds”.  Our house is borderline being 1.5km from the cabinet and with fibre we have now got speeds of around 16-18Mbps.  Our neighbours closer to the cabinet have speeds in the twenties and thirties, but our neighbours further away only about 5 or 6Mbps.  Our unluckiest neighbours (after number 80) are connected to another cabinet and have been told they are too far away (about 3km) to access fibre broadband so they are still stuck with 1-2Mbps.  We can now watch catch up TV!  However in the future, I am told, the speeds that we currently have will still not be enough to cope online as more and more services go this way and also I believe, as more of our neighbours take up fibre broadband, our speed may drop.

The arrival of fibre however leaves the unlucky few in our group who can’t access it, plus a few of those who can but only at slower speeds, in an uncertain position as to the BT Openreach application as there may now not be enough of us to split the cost of a community full fibre installation which would have provided us with a much superior fibre connection to each the property (rather than fibre to the cabinet).