Buxton retiree finds way around £40,000 quote for broadband connection

A High Peak retiree is enjoying a new digital lease of life after finally securing a high-speed broadband connection for his rural property, and avoiding an astronomical bill in the process.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 6th May 2022, 5:13 pm

In 2021, David Henthorne received a quote for £40,000 for a fibre connection from BT’s Universal Service Obligation (USO) scheme, as he struggled to get by with a 2 Mbps link – a fraction of the speeds available in more urban communities.

David, whose lives just three miles from Buxton, felt frustrated and increasingly isolated as he came to rely on the internet for more and more everyday tasks, from shopping and banking to connecting with loved ones.

He said: “I don’t care to imagine the time I spent sitting around waiting for pages to load.”

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David Henthorne is picking up speed on the information superhighway.

At the time, BT’s USO meant only that the company was obliged to provide a quote for connecting an individual property. Any amount in excess of the £3,400 contributed by BT would be passed on to the property owner, to be paid in full before work began.

Dumbfounded by the figures involved, David contacted High Peak MP Robert Largan for help, but even his best efforts could find no immediate solution without huge personal cost.

Eventually David discovered a relatively new company, National Broadband, which specialises in connecting some of the country’s most hard-to-reach areas.

Within weeks, the company installed a 4G-based over-the-air solution, running at ten times the speed of David’s old service.

He said: “It has been an absolute God-send. I’m now able to get on with my day-to-day activities and talk to friends and family hassle-free.

“National Broadband were very helpful and the service was outstanding. From initial enquiry to set-up and aftercare, they have supported me all the way.”

According to industry regulator Ofcom, there are around 234,000 homes and business premises in rural England without access to decent broadband via a fixed connection.

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National Broadband director David Hennell said: “For the unfortunate minority, good quality broadband is simply not accessible – or only at enormous personal cost. This issue of digital deprivation is perfectly highlighted by David’s story, which demonstrates that programmes such as the USO are not fit for purpose when it comes to connecting those most in need.

“The Government talks a good game on ‘levelling up’. However, its current ‘full fibre’ policy simply leaves behind those suffering with the slowest broadband connections.

“If the Government is serious about closing the digital divide, it must look into alternative solutions that are immediately deployable and proven to be capable of dramatically improving life for the most digitally disadvantaged.”

A BT spokesperson said the company has since introduced schemes allowing neighbours to share and reduce costs for engineering works involved in connecting their properties – although anyone able to access 10 Mbps connections via 4G, like David, would not be eligible.

They added: “The quote provided to Mr Henthorne was the cost of delivering a broadband connection under the Universal Service Obligation in January 2021.

“We’re pleased that Mr Henthorne has since been able to find an alternative connection. Although the cost of delivering broadband services to some areas remains high, we’ve improved the support available to customers to fund USO builds, including an option for communities to share the cost of a USO connection between them.”

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