Leader keeps broadband on national agenda
31st August, 2016
Gloucestershire County Council’s leader is spearheading a national campaign for better broadband speeds and more honesty from providers.
Through his role as leader of Gloucestershire, Cllr Mark Hawthorne is chairman of the Local Government Association's (LGA) People and Places Board, which is leading a drive to increase broadband speeds across the UK.
The board’s national campaign – Up to speed - has been running since May and is aimed at improving access to broadband for everyone no matter where they live or work.
The latest step in the campaign aims to stop misleading advertising by broadband providers.
Current rules allow providers to promote "up to" download speeds if they can demonstrate that just 10 per cent of their customers can achieve them.
However, speeds in many remote rural areas fall well below 2Mbps during periods including when children get home from school, during holidays and after 6pm.
This means a typical family household would struggle if the children wanted to watch catch up TV and the parents wanted to browse the internet at the same time.
The LGA group said switching from "up to" to average advertised speeds would reflect these periods better.
Upload speed should also be a key measure of performance alongside download speed and clearly advertised to consumers, the group insists.
Cllr Mark Hawthorne, Chairman of the LGA's People and Places Board, said: "Councils are working hard to ensure everyone has good quality internet access.
"The headline ‘up to' download speed, which can be advertised legally, is misleading and does not reflect the reality of broadband service received across the country.
"Broadband users deserve greater honesty and openness about the download and upload speeds they are likely to receive depending on their location."
Cllr Hawthorne’s work with the LGA supports the work the council is doing in Gloucestershire.
Gloucestershire County Council is already running its own broadband campaign, Fastershire, which has brought faster speeds to more than 80,000 premises across the county.
The project is a partnership between Gloucestershire and Herefordshire Councils.
Under the first phase of the project around 88 per cent of premises in Gloucestershire can now access fibre broadband, with the majority at over 30Mbps.
The project began in December 2012, and so far over 80,000 rural premises now have access to faster connections over 30Mbps.
In phase one of the project, Gloucestershire County Council invested £7.5m, matched funded by central government, through a contract with BT to improve faster broadband speeds across the county.
Phase two of the project will see faster broadband extend even further with an additional £6.2m, match funded by central government, being invested by the authority.
The second phase has already started in some areas, with Gigaclear targeting over 6,500 additional homes and businesses, upgrading speeds specifically in the Cotswolds./p>
The council has also agreed a £500,000 investment to be match funded by Cotswold District Council to extend phase two even further.