Many houses in Swindon ‘unable to get fastest internet’, figures reveal

MANY homes in Swindon are incapable of accessing full-fibre broadband, figures have revealed. 

Figures from the House of Commons library showed just 17.5 per cent of households in North Swindon and 11.2 per cent in South Swindon could receive speeds of one gigabits per second in September 2020. 

This coverage differs greatly throughout both constituencies – from 48.5 per cent of homes in Mouldon Hill and Oakhurst, to none in four other areas.

And from 43.8 per cent of homes in Broad Blunsdon, South Marston and Wanborough, to 1.2 per cent in Kingshill and Okus.

A group of MPs has warned the government’s pledge of gigabit broadband for 85 percent of the UK by 2025 will not be met, leaving those in rural areas with slow connectivity for years to come.

According to the HoC figures, 27 per cent of UK homes can access the technology, but more recent data from Think Broadband had this at 37 per cent by January.

The Public Accounts Committee criticised the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport for not being prepared to admit sooner it would not meet a Conservative election pledge of gigabit broadband connectivity across the entire country by 2025.

It was not until November that the government revealed it was rowing back on the target, aiming for at least 85% instead.

That original target was “unachievable”, MPs said in their Improving Broadband report, and they are concerned the reduced target will still be challenging to meet.

Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee Meg Hillier said the government cannot allow digital inequality to exacerbate the economic inequality exposed by the coronavirus pandemic.

She added: “The government’s promises on digital connectivity are more important than ever.

“But due to a litany of planning and implementation failures at DCMS, those promises are slipping farther and farther out of reach – even worse news for the ‘rural excluded’ who face years trying to recover with substandard internet connectivity.”

Figures showed the average download speed across North Swindon was 84.3 Megabits per second – between 108.2 Mbps in Penhill, and 41.2 Mbps in Highworth.

It was 92.5 Megabits per second in South Swindon – between 137.8 Mbps in Lawn and East Wichel, and 64.9 Mbps in Wroughton, Wichelstowe and Chiseldon.

The National Farmers’ Union said it is “completely unacceptable” that rural areas continue to be ignored when it comes to digital connectivity.

NFU deputy president Stuart Roberts added: “British farming businesses rely on having fast and reliable access to the internet – yet as the last survey of our members revealed, more than four out of 10 farmers don’t believe that their broadband is sufficient for their business.

“We desperately need to see investment in the country’s digital infrastructure, so farming businesses and the rural economy can continue to meet their huge potential as food producers as well as helping to tackle climate change and to deliver on our net zero ambitions.”

The DCMS said it did not agree with the MPs’ report, claiming it contained some inaccuracies.

A spokesman said: “Gigabit capable broadband is being rolled out rapidly – from one in ten households in 2019 to one in three households today.

“We expect that half of all households will have access to gigabit speeds by the end of this year, and the UK is deploying at a faster build rate than comparable countries.”

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