Bath Life interview with James Lowther

James, Truespeed's CEO, spoke to Bath Life on BT, slow broadband, and creating brand new networks
April 30, 2024

Truespeed, which has just turned ten years old, was started by people living in the Chew Valley who were tired of being overlooked for the rollout of fibre broadband whilst the big cities were getting upgraded.

Since then, Truespeed has made ultrafast broadband available to more than 100,000 homes in the region, and power over 20,000 customers in the region. Here. James Lowther, the CEO, tells us.


How would you personally sum up Truespeed?

Without sounding too hyperbolic, we’ve taken these households from having some of the slowest internet speeds in Europe to some of the fastest speeds available anywhere in the world.

We also take pride in upgrading people’s customer experience, as well as the speed of their internet, offering local customer service where we treat customers like real human beings – no sneaky mid-contract price hikes. We’re also supporting local community hubs and schools with free internet for life.

What’s your background?

I studied Economics at the University of Kent and, since graduating, I’ve worked in the telecoms industry my whole career, starting at British Telecom.

The most impactful role I’ve had was running the consumer division for Com Hem (now Tele2), who are a major broadband provider in Sweden. Not only did I learn a lot about my leadership style working in a different country and work culture, but it also showed me how far the UK needs to go to catch up in terms of broadband infrastructure.

Did you always know this was the area you’d be working in?

It was more by luck than by design, but ever since I’ve found working in the sector fascinating, as it is constantly evolving and is critical to people’s everyday lives.

As a sign of how quickly it moves, one of my first projects was helping to launch up to 20MB broadband – one of the antiquated technologies we’re helping to upgrade people from today.

When did you first become CEO of Truespeed?

At the end of 2021, and time has flown by since! My mission since joining the company has been to scale Truespeed so we can provide full-fibre broadband to as many homes and businesses across the South West as possible.

Truespeed's CRO speaks to Bath Life

What are the highs you’ve experienced in that time?

The high has definitely been the rate at which we have scaled the business. In the last two years we have trebled the number of homes and businesses who can access our ultrafast broadband, and more than doubled the size of our customer base.

What pleased me the most was how we achieved it – our team has managed to hold onto the heart and soul of the business despite scaling rapidly, with a singular focus on delivering the best possible experience for our customers.

…and the lows?

The low came last year when we had to scale back the growth of the business due to a tightening of the financial markets. It was incredibly tough for everyone involved, and we had to make a number of redundancies. But the company came through that period successfully, thanks to everyone in the team pulling together and ensuring we came out the other side even stronger than before.

Are there negative perceptions about the work you do?

The biggest challenge is explaining to customers why we have to sometimes dig up the road, or why it can take a long time to reach their town.

The fact of the matter is, Truespeed is building a brand new network from scratch, which means we don’t use any of the antiquated copper lines that exist today. We re-use existing ducts or poles wherever possible, but in a lot of cases this infrastructure is of poor quality and so we have to build our own. This is a major infrastructure project that costs hundreds of millions of pounds and takes many years to complete.

How does a Bath head office help your business?

Bath has access to such a great pool of talented people across all types of roles, but particularly in the tech space. This means that we have been able to assemble an incredibly strong team who are experts in what they do.

You work with, and support, a lot of local businesses – including the Bath Life Awards. Tell us a little more about that…

We’re proud sponsors of the Bath Life Awards, and sponsored the Civic category this year – which was won by Bath Bid’s Bath Safe Bus. We have also worked with Valey Fest, Keynsham Music Festival and the Frome Cheese Festival – we thrive on getting involved with the communities that we operate in, and it is a privilege to contribute to them.

Any moment you have been particularly proud of?

The one that sticks out the most is visiting a school in Glastonbury last year to celebrate them becoming the 150th school provided with a free Truespeed internet connection for life. Hearing not just the head teacher, but all the kids there talking about how their lessons have been enhanced since we provided their new connection was actually incredibly moving.

We were delighted to announce our 150th free community connection