I held a meeting on Friday with constituents who have previously contacted me about their broadband speeds. More than 20 households joined the call to share their frustrations, with many reporting similar issues which all impact on the overall speed and reliability of their internet connection. Residents are too far from fibre boxes to benefit from them, or have been told they cannot connect to those nearby. Others have applied for previous voucher schemes and been told, due to the remoteness of their homes, they are not eligible. The shift to holding online meetings throughout the lockdown, for working or distance learning, has also highlighted discrepancies between upload and download speeds – providers are likely to focus on boosting download speeds for streaming services, but slow upload speeds can have a huge impact on the ability to work from home.
Overall, broadband speeds and connectivity are improving, including in Wiltshire, but this is no consolation for those who are still in areas suffering poor service – especially where alternatives such as satellite and 4G are also unreliable. If we want to ensure Wiltshire has a succesful future it is essential that everyone can access the internet.
Next week we will hear about the next phase of the Government’s Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme, which is being relaunched with up to £210million to give people in eligible rural areas immediate financial help to get gigabit speeds. The new vouchers, worth up to £1,500 for residents and up to £3,500 for businesses, will go live on 8th April. I am hopeful some of the households affected by slow and unreliable speeds might be able to access new support through this scheme. I will be in touch with them once we have the details, and I will continue to push for more support and flexibility for those for whom the scheme is not enough to rectify their difficulties.