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Will we finally start to close the urban/rural broadband gap in 2019?

By Evan Wienburg, CEO and co-founder of TrueSpeed

Every January I’m asked for my predictions on what will happen in the broadband market. Until now I’ve been forced to roll out a rather underwhelming stock response: “Nothing much will change.”

That’s because the stagnant state of Britain’s broadband has, for too long, been all too predictable. While other European countries have powered ahead with ambitious full fibre rollout plans, the UK has lagged behind. Not only that, the pace of change has been distinctly uneven, with easier-to-reach urban areas consistently prioritised ahead of Britain’s myriad rural communities. If you’re living in a rural area you may even struggle to access this article.

Fortunately, the outlook this year is far more positive. Last summer the National Infrastructure Commission called for far greater investment and ambition around the creation of a digitally driven economy. And the Government has listened. Its vision of full fibre connectivity for every business and home by 2033 is one that we endorse wholeheartedly. And one that we will continue to work towards in the rural south west as we continue our network build and do out bit to reduce the urban/rural broadband gap.

Farewell to fake fibre?

It’s almost a year since CityFibre launched its campaign to demand an end to false advertising of fibre broadband, and next month we will see the outcome of the judicial review of the ASA’s position. Here at TrueSpeed, we fully endorse the campaign and are hopeful that the outcome of the judicial review will herald the end of the fake fibre promises by peddled by national providers.

Alongside this, we’ll need to see our industry take face up to its responsibility to educate consumers into what they’re truly paying for from a broadband provider. A report earlier this month suggested that over half of UK consumers remain unaware that copper connections could be sabotaging the speed of their 'fibre optic' broadband packages. Consumers need educating about what is a genuine fibre product and what is a fake fibre product (i.e. one in which the connection to the home is actually copper-based).

Things that won’t change

However, I predict that in certain pockets of the UK, broadband network ‘overbuilding’ will be quietly allowed to continue. This happens when different companies are allowed to build networks in the same communities, meaning that some communities get multiple fibre cables laid down, while others get none.

I’m all for encouraging healthy competition, but when we’re talking about transformative infrastructure that the UK urgently requires, the priority has to be getting everyone, everywhere, connected as quickly as possible. Sadly, I doubt 2019 will be the year that overbuilding is finally stamped out.

Connecting more communities

To end on a positive note, 2019 will be an exciting year for TrueSpeed as we prepare to bring full fibre broadband to many more communities.

As a local firm, community is at the heart of everything we do. Last year we grew fast, helping to contribute to the local economy by recruiting more engineers, customer service representatives, community-based team members, and local contractors. The money we make from our connected customers gets reinvested right back into our local communities. That’s why I’m happy to predict that in 2019 we’ll spread our wings further and invest more money than ever before into improving the lives of people across the South West.

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