A homeowner, who was experiencing broadband speeds of just 2Mbps, was quoted £40,000 by Openreach to improve his internet.
David Henthorne, a retired resident in Buxton Derbyshire, contacted Openreach Fibre Community Partnership after finding he was unable to perform basic tasks online due to the slow speeds.
The Partnership has been introduced as a way of offering fast broadband to areas which aren’t part of Openreach’s current rollout plans.
However, residents in rural areas often find they are quoted tens of thousands to have fibre installed, unless they have neighbours which are on board and willing to pay out.
Mr Henthrone had been with his provider, EE, since 2002 but as his reliance on the internet to perform everyday tasks increased, he noticed that his current service was completely unsuitable to do everyday tasks, from online shopping, banking to connecting with family and friends.
In a time where having access to reliable and high speed internet is essential, as many people continue to work from home, the lack of reliable internet left David frustrated and increasingly isolated.
At first, he contacted his local MP Robert Largan who represents the High Peak constituency.
Mr Largan put David into contact with Openreach but this is when he was quoted tens of thousands of pounds as there was no one to share the high costs.
Looking for a feasible solution, Mr Henthorne looked online and found National Broadband, a firm that specialises in leveraging 4G and 5G technology to deliver fit for purpose broadband across the whole UK.
It has a particular focus on providing much improved internet connections to more rurally located homes and businesses where fibre doesn’t reach – a complaint that has become more common in recent times.
Mr Henthorne sent an enquiry to National Broadband and it was able to help set him up with high-speed and reliable internet within weeks of his application.
He now has speeds of 20Mbps, lifting him out of digital isolation and allowing him to perform important tasks online.
Mr Henthorne said: “The solution offered by National Broadband has been an absolute God-send. I don’t care to imagine the time I spent sitting around waiting for pages to load.
“I am now able to get on with my day-to-day online activities and talk to friends and family online hassle free.”
According to Ofcom there are currently over 600,000 properties in the UK that find themselves in a similar situation to Mr Henthorne and are unable to access reliable broadband service from either fixed or fixed wireless networks.
“However, for an unfortunate few it’s either not accessible to all or is accessible at an enormous personal cost.
“This is highlighted in David’s story and raises the question of the suitability of the Openreach community fibre programme in connecting those most in need and the Government needs to evaluate the costs of installing fibre around the UK or look into alternative solutions that are available to improve the current digital divide.”
i has contacted Openreach for comment.
What is the Government doing to help?
Under the UK Gigabit Voucher scheme, introduced in 2018, every eligible rural home, small business and sole trader can get can a voucher.
Eligible homes can get a voucher worth up to £1,500, and eligible small businesses and sole traders can get up to £3,500. The vouchers are free, but Government terms and conditions apply.
If you express an interest in a Fibre Community Partnership, Openreach can get in touch via the Fibre Community Partnership scheme. However, it is currently not accepting any new registrations due to high demand.
When it is up and running, homes and businesses with broadband speeds of less than 100Mbps can use vouchers to support the cost of installing new gigabit-capable connections when part of a group scheme.
Group projects are when two or more residents and/or SMEs get together to combine their vouchers towards the shared cost of installation.
Single connections are not eligible for additional funding, as Mr Hemthorne discovered.
Therefore, households and small businesses have to discuss between themselves who would like to apply, how many people would like to apply and how the cost would then be shared.
For those who do not have nearby neighbours, or have neighbours who do not wish to take part, this means the price of installation is incredibly prohibitive.
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