Retired lawyer quoted over half a MILLION pounds to install broadband

Retired lawyer, 65, is quoted over half a MILLION pounds to install reliable broadband at his rural Cumbria home – as BT charge him £70 a month for painfully slow 1Mbps speeds

  • David Roberts, 65,  lives in a Cumbria hamlet and wants to video call his family
  • His current download speed is well below the UK average of 64Mbps  
  • Government’s ‘universal service’ scheme only covers up to £3,400 of fees

A retired lawyer was quoted £502,586 by BT to install a reliable broadband connection at his rural Cumbria home. 

David Roberts, 65, had requested a broadband service fast enough for making uninterrupted video calls to his family and to watch All Creatures Great and Small. 

He currently pays £70 every month for a 0.9Mbps download speed and had to wait three hours to download a 20-minute video his cousin sent him of a holiday in Germany.   

The speed is well below the UK average of 64Mbps. This means he struggles with viewing standard web pages – while a Zoom meeting or a Netflix subscription is completely out of the question.

David Roberts, 65, had requested a broadband service fast enough for making uninterrupted video calls to his family and to watch All Creatures Great and Small and was given a quote of £502,586 by BT

Mr Roberts, who lives in the hamlet of Isel, near Cockermouth in Cumbria, hoped for improvement when the government announced a ‘Universal Service Obligation’ scheme, which gives people a legal right to ‘decent and affordable’ broadband.

It obliges the government to contribute up to £3,400 towards each installation. 

However, he would still be left to foot a bill of £499,186. 

Last August he co-ordinated a group of the 29 households in the hamlet to fulfill their WiFi dreams

He was quoted £380,000 for the whole 29 houses to be supplied when he inquired last year.

Mr Roberts, who lives in the hamlet of Isel, near Cockermouth in Cumbria, hoped for improvement when the government announced a ‘Universal Service Obligation’ scheme, which gives people a legal right to ‘decent and affordable’ broadband

But this year, he was staggered to get a quote back from telecoms giant BT of £502,586.40 for just his house.

Mr Roberts, who has lived in the village with his wife for 33 years, said: ‘I laughed out loud when I saw the quote. It is just ridiculous. Nobody is going to pay that.

‘The annoying thing is that the village next to us, Blindcrake, just one and a half miles away, had BT fibre broadband installed two years ago completely free of charge.

‘This is a real problem for us here, it is not just a case of wanting to be able to watch old movies on TV, but having the real need to be connected.’ 

The hamlet where Mr Roberts lives doesn’t have a shop, pub or post office, meaning its residents are already cut off from the outside world.

He said: ‘With fibre-optic broadband, rural areas are being left out in the cold.’

A BT spokesperson said: ‘We’re sorry for the disappointment the quote has caused Mr Roberts’

Their current broadband connection hangs by a thread as the cable is often damaged by farm machinery and has had to be repaired countless times, weakening the strength even further.

The coroner, who presided over the deaths of those killed by serial killer Derrick Bird in a shooting spree 2010, said: ‘The government’s scheme clearly isn’t working.

‘Local people don’t have that kind of money to splurge on broadband.

‘Nobody has explained to me why Openreach quoted me a figure of £380,000 to supply 29 properties with broadband and yet when it was a quote to supply just me the figure came out as just over £500,000.’

Local councillor Ron Munby and his wife Helen live nearby. Mrs Munby, 69, said: ‘We have broadband but it’s pathetic.

‘We’ve lived at Isel for 24 years now and the phone-line has always caused problems.

‘Now, of course, the broadband is carried along the same lines and the phone line was condemned years ago by Openreach engineers who say it’s been fixed so many times it’s exhausted its lifespan.’

Workington MP Mark Jenkinson was sympathetic to the affected residents and vowed to continue fighting to bring affordable broadband to Cumbria.

He suggested that the issue was linked to there being a broadband ‘infrastructure monopoly’.

The spokesman added: ‘His property is several kilometres away from our nearest usable network, which means significant civil engineering, build and cabling work is needed to provide a connection.’ Pictured: Lake District

A BT spokesman said: ‘We’re sorry for the disappointment the quote has caused Mr Roberts.

‘His property is several kilometres away from our nearest usable network, which means significant civil engineering, build and cabling work is needed to provide a connection.

‘Mr Roberts could reduce the cost by exploring other opportunities such as joining up with other homes nearby and seeing if a Community Fibre Partnership is viable – they could also use Government vouchers for this to further reduce the cost.

‘Ninety-five percent of UK homes already have access to Superfast Broadband of 30 Mbps and above and we’re working closely with Government to find other solutions for the very hardest to reach.’

Residents of Michaelston-y-Fedw, near Newport in Wales, banded together to raise money to boost download speeds from 8Mbps to 940Mbps – among the fastest speed in the UK. 

David Schofield, 56, a retired repairer of electronics, headed the group. He told The Sunday Times: ‘We did everything ourselves, all the cabling, digging up the roads and connecting the cables to a Newport hub.’

They started digging in February 2018 and had their first connection in June that year. They now have about 240 customers who each pay about £30 a month.

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