Frustration in county’s rural communities over challenge of reliable broadband service

Some rural areas of Essex have struggled with slow broadband speed.

Some rural areas of Essex have struggled with slow broadband speed. - Credit: Archant

The majority of rural households in Essex are regularly frustrated with slow broadband speeds and confused over the type of service they should be receiving, a survey has revealed.

Last month Essex-based broadband provider, County Broadband, published the results of a survey of more than 2,000 residents in Essex and rural England.

The survey was designed to assess the challenges communities face with their digital connectivity and follow County Broadband's announcement of plans to roll out a new ultrafast full fibre network in rural villages across the west of the county, which have historically suffered from poor connectivity.

At 57 per cent, more than half of those questioned said they were frustrated with their internet, citing poor performance and unreliable speeds, with 16 per cent struggling on a daily basis.

There was also widespread confusion over the different types of broadband on offer, with 43 per cent unsure of the difference between superfast and ultrafast broadband. Superfast provides fibre to cabinet broadband whilst ultrafast provides fibre to the premises. A further 17 per cent mistakenly believed superfast is faster than ultrafast even though ultrafast offers speeds up to 1,000Mbps, more than 10 times faster than superfast.

Whilst Britain was operating under superfast broadband, average downloads were at 18.5 Mbps in 2018, behind Romania and Madagascar.

Lloyd Felton, chief executive of County Broadband Ltd, said: "Our survey reveals there is a lot of confusion with many homes and businesses signing up for 'fibre' thinking they are getting the fastest speeds when in fact their superfast connection relies on existing copper which significantly reduces speed and reliability.

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"Our new ultrafast network, which uses full fibre directly into people's home, will provide a real boost for residents, businesses and whole communities and put them in the top six per cent in the UK for digital connectivity. We have already started construction and we will be rolling out across Essex over the coming months."

County Broadband has secured access to a £46million investment fund to build full fibre, ultrafast broadband networks throughout the East of England, commencing in Essex.