Often the digital divide is discussed and the problem of ‘not spots’ in rural communities. But what does that actually mean here in Whittington and West Felton? Here are the facts and broadband by the numbers for our area.
Many moons ago – 15 years ago to be exact – when I was a Councillor for Bridgnorth, I campaigned long and hard to get broadband to Bridgnorth. Eventually, Bridgnorth got onto the list for pre-registration in 2002. BT set a high a trigger-level of 750 before they would consider enabling broadband at the exchange. Again I campaigned to get people to register and get Bridgnorth over BT’s interest trigger level. This culminated in Bridgnorth passing the ADSL trigger-level in February 2003 and a lot earlier than other places. The Exchange was enabled the following May. As a County Councillor, I also worked to see the roll-out of Broad Places.
Back then I said: “Securing broadband will lead to a massive economic boost for Bridgnorth. Improving the access and the speed of communication for businesses and home users will create new opportunities for job creation.” Times have changed, but this still holds very true today. The fact we are still lagging behind other areas is not good.
Compare Shropshire to Surrey
Speeds around Whittington
Speeds around West Felton
Over the last decade, across all sectors of the economy, services have shifted online as broadband access became more widely available. Businesses have made efficiency savings and opened up their business to whole new markets. Public bodies followed suit. Now the expectation is that services are delivered online. It hasn’t all been good news, with increased social isolation and lower customer ‘face-time’ leading to remoteness and in some cases a drop in customer satisfaction.
Throughout this process, and of particular concern to me, is the rural bias BT operates by. Rural areas pay the same charges as our Urban counterparts, yet the service we receive is always far worse. As services switch to online, poor access to the internet is a real handicap for businesses and individuals in rural areas. The have-nots left in rural desserts or ‘not spots’ left unable to do the basics or having to put up with a reduced service. Shropshire Council has been paying BT to roll out Fibre Broadband into rural areas. Yet now we are in the realms of Super Fast Fibre Broadband. Currently, only 47% of exchanges in Shropshire can deliver Super Fast Broadband.
Having moved to Aston Moors, West Felton I was shocked at the broadband speed Sandra and Lily received: An abysmal 1.5mbps. After looking at the subsidies available through connecting Shropshire, we were told we didn’t qualify so we upgraded to Fibre to achieve the heady heights of 7.5mbps… An incredibly slow speed for fibre and even for bog standard broadband. I have previously received 20mbps in Bridgnorth 5 years ago. At work, fibre came to the village of Upton Magna two years ago and we enjoy a speed of 75mbps at our offices.
Take a look at any rural area on the think broadband website and the disparity from area to area in Shropshire is huge. At a time when services are online, and Councils & service providers expect/require you to access their services that way… At a time when businesses need to be as competitive as possible, locally and internationally… At a time when public expectations for how services should be delivered… Such poor access is a real barrier to Shropshire economic success and runs the very real danger of leaving many vulnerable people in rural areas more isolated than ever.
Many areas are now getting Ultra-Fast Broadband. If Shropshire’s economy is to properly compete with other counties in the UK, or globally, in the post-Brexit world, we need faster access and 100% roll our of Super-Fast Broadband, and we need it quickly.
Check out the numbers for your postcode here: Think broadband postcode search
Broadband by the numbers: Whittington and West Felton Parishes
Let’s put some numbers on the broadband access in our area.
- There are 3 exchanges that cover our area: Queens Head, Oswestry and Knockin.
- Oswestry and Knockin have Super-Fast Broadband, Queens Head does not.
- North Shropshire has Estimated Maximum Mean Download Speed: 41.6 Mbps (compared to 130.5 Mbps for the UK)
- North Shropshire ADSL connections get an average speed of 6.9mbps
- North Shropshire Fibre (FTTC) connections get an average speed of 30.8mb
- North Shropshire Super Fast Broadband coverage: 78.4% (compared with 91.8% for the UK)
- North Shropshire Ultra-Fast Broadband coverage: 1.52% (compared with 51.27% for the UK)
- Only 47% of exchanges in Shropshire can deliver Super Fast Broadband.