Queue here for really expensive rural broadband.


Today started at 4am. That’s when I woke up and realised it was dark. What I didn’t realise was that it was 4am. The darkness and my inability to tell the time had the same cause. The radio alarm clock wasn’t on. So we’d had a power cut. Now that needed further exploration. Had there been a power cut, one that effected a fair area, or had ‘we’ had a power cut? By which I mean it was only us who were without electricity. When you’re rural both can happen. Or was it a trip-switch issue?
Given that by 5:30am we really needed electricity to milk with, it struck me that now was the time to start making enquiries. After all if it was a genuine power cut I was going to have to contact the utility to find out what was going on.

Anyway after making my way down stairs, finding the torch (always keep your torch in exactly the same place. It saves an immense amount of trouble when you’re looking for it in the dark), I went to investigate the trip-switch.

Now our house and buildings are on three separate trip-switches. So tripping something in the buildings doesn’t put the house of, and vice-versa. The house trip-switch had tripped and when I flicked it back, it tripped out again. The good news was that the buildings had electricity and so we were good to go for milking. The bad news was that the fridge and chest freezer didn’t have electricity.

I went round unplugging stuff and eventually came to the conclusion that whatever I took out, the switch still tripped. Fine. I went back to bed to get another hour. Now with daylight I had extension cables snaking through the house so that the freezer and fridge were plugged into parts of the house that were on a different trip.

Then I phoned the electrician. He arrived and agreed that, yes, the trip-switch was kaput. So that had to be changed. All before 9am.

So yes, we’re used to electricity that needs to be cherished and pampered to ensure it keeps flowing.

If anything, broadband is even worse. As I write (because I checked) our broadband has a download speed of 3.28Mbps. This is about as good as it gets at the moment, it can get below 1Mbps. To be fair it used to run at 4.5Mbps but I suspect more people working at home etc has strained the system and those of us on the periphery are paying for it. It’s so bad, two people tried to phone me when I was in a zoom meeting. Both told me that their phone rang once and just went to static. Luckily it didn’t drop me out of the meeting. But obviously I don’t have a camera on the desktop machine I use for doing zoom. I mean, why would somebody with our line speed want a camera?

Anyway we were talking to the engineers trying to get our broadband improved. We do this reasonably regularly. They come out, tweak something, the speed goes over 4Mbps and over the next week erratically drops to average about 2Mbps. One of them suggested we try the Universal Service Obligation. To quote from Offcom,


“From 20 March 2020, if you can’t get a download speed of 10 Mbit/s and an upload speed of 1 Mbit/s, you can request an upgraded connection. You can make this request to BT, or to KCOM if you live in the Hull area. You do not need to be an existing customer of BT or KCOM to apply.”


What will it cost?

Again, I quote. “If the cost of building or upgrading your share of the network connection is £3,400 or less, you won’t have to pay for this work to be done.


If it will cost more than £3,400 to connect your home, and you still want a connection, you will have to pay the excess costs. If you want to do this, BT/ KCOM will conduct a survey and give you a quote within 60 days.

You will pay the same price for your new broadband service as anyone else on the same package, and no more than £46.10 a month.”


So we contacted BT. They checked and we are eligible. So they promised to start the process.

A couple of days later I got this email.


“Hello Jim,


As we mentioned when we spoke with you, there isn’t currently a broadband network in your area that meets the Universal Service Obligation (USO) set by Ofcom (a line that can give you download speeds of 10Mbps or more).


However, we can build a new network to bring faster broadband to your door.

What will it cost?

We still need to find out whether there’s a cost involved. If there isn’t, we’ll be able to get started with building the new network.


If there is a cost involved, we’ll be in touch to let you know an estimated price range. It could take up to 30 days for us to find out, so please bear with us.”

That’s fair enough I thought. Indeed a couple of days later I got another email.


“Hello Jim,


We’ve now checked and there is a cost involved for building a new broadband network.


We’ll call you shortly to let you know the estimated price range and, if you’re still interested after that, we’ll get a more exact quote for you. You can also call us on the number below. We’ll keep your request open for 30 days.”


Anyway, we got a phone call, they had the first price for giving us 10Mbps broadband. Now given that government is willing to chip in £3,400 I realised it wasn’t going to be cheap, but actually there are two other houses that are on the route and it struck me if we all went in on the project we could probably cover up to six or seven thousand pounds using government money. So I was perfectly happy to negotiate and help put a scheme together.


The price I was quoted was, “Between seventy and one hundred thousand pounds.”

Yes, between £70,000 and £100,000.

What are they doing, laying fibre direct from GCHQ just for us?

I pointed out I could buy a terraced house in our local town for less than that to use as an office and have better broadband than the 10Mbps minimum they were promising.

Anyway, they’re going to provide me with a detailed quote. This process can take up to 60 days. I await the result with interest. But frankly it looks as if we’re going to be on rubbish broadband for some years yet.


Obviously I need a good book to keep myself amused.

The fourth of these collections of anecdotes, rants, pious maunderings and general observations on life. Yes we have dogs, quads, sheep and cattle, but in this one we follow the ‘lambing year.’ It starts with ewes being put to the tup in late autumn and finishes in summer with the last of the laggards lambing.
But as well as this we have endless rain, as well as sleeping in a manger. Be brave and you’ll meet young ladies in high heeled cowboy boots, Sir John Moore of Corunna, brassieres for cows, and, incidentally, David Essex.


As a reviewer commented, “This book charts a year in the life of a Cumbrian sheep farmer. It’s sprinkled with anecdotes and memories of other years. Some parts (especially when featuring Sal, the Border Collie) were so funny as to cause me to have to read them out loud to my husband. It’s very interesting to read these things from the pen of the man who is actually out there doing it – usually in the rain! A very good read.”

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46 thoughts on “Queue here for really expensive rural broadband.

  1. xantilor August 14, 2020 at 5:26 am Reply

    Jim, if you hadn’t had electricity in the buildings, would you have had to milk the cows by hand? (Btw, the Like button isn’t working for me. Sometimes it does, sometimes not.)

    • jwebster2 August 14, 2020 at 6:00 am Reply

      With ninety to milk, hand milking isn’t possible. We had a standby generator but because of putting in three phase to cope with the next generation of milk tanks etc, that is now obsolete.

      • xantilor August 14, 2020 at 7:16 am

        So what would you do? I’m worrying now…

      • jwebster2 August 14, 2020 at 7:53 am

        wait for the electric to come back on. If that is going to take too long we’d have to hire an emergency generator which isn’t a cheap option but has to be done

  2. Sue Vincent August 14, 2020 at 5:52 am Reply

    There are places in Cumbria where you could buy two newly renovated houses for that!

    • jwebster2 August 14, 2020 at 5:59 am Reply


      • Sue Vincent August 14, 2020 at 6:00 am

        Mind, I’m 40 iles from central London and have only recently got speeds my son didn’t laugh at…

      • jwebster2 August 14, 2020 at 6:02 am

        That is what makes things so difficult. People think in terms of isolated communities, but in our case the community has been connected. It’s the ‘isolated’ houses and farms that are not economically viable

      • Sue Vincent August 14, 2020 at 6:36 am

        My son, in the town, had ten times the speed ofmy village, just five miles away. Thankfully, that changed a couple of years ago. I cannot imagine trying to run a farm on those speeds.

      • jwebster2 August 14, 2020 at 7:16 am

        The big problem is government. They assume you’re got decent broadband
        For actually farming, it’s not all that important

      • Sue Vincent August 14, 2020 at 8:53 am

        Government make too many assumptions about their people…
        I wS thinking more of the administrative hoops you have to jump through .

      • jwebster2 August 14, 2020 at 10:37 am

        They all have to be on line now. As does submitting accounts. Given we don’t do our accounts electronically but on paper, that’s a bummer for a start

      • Sue Vincent August 14, 2020 at 2:09 pm

        It bugs me that ‘they’ want everything done electronically, but can’t ensure that is feasible for everyone…

      • jwebster2 August 14, 2020 at 3:58 pm

        the whole thing is an exercise into shifting the cost from the state to the individual 😦

      • Sue Vincent August 14, 2020 at 4:00 pm

        I had noticed that…

      • jwebster2 August 14, 2020 at 5:06 pm

        yes, they’ve been doing it for some time. Blair started a process of dumping inspection charges on industry (if the industry was weak) so if you were a meat cutting plant you paid for environmental health inspection but if you were a meat cutting plant as part of a supermarket depot, you got the inspection free (I think it was the blair government, it was about that time)

      • Sue Vincent August 14, 2020 at 6:14 pm

        You would say that made no sense at all…except that brass always goes to brass…

      • jwebster2 August 14, 2020 at 8:32 pm

        That’s the one

  3. Eddy Winko August 14, 2020 at 5:53 am Reply

    Our generator is well used here is rural Poland 🙂
    Considering our remote location we have we an array of choices for broadband. Four mobile providers, one of which I use as an emergency connection running at around 20mbs. Then there is the local council that set up a free local wireless network than runs at around 5mbs. This relies on locals agreeing to put an aerial on their house at a cost of about £60, but as more and more added them then coverage increased and you simply need to be registered as living in the area to get free access.
    Then finally there are private companies that set up their own wireless networks, and one day we were fortunate enough for one of them to knock on our door to see if we would host an aerial for them, an offer we jumped at as in means we now get free internet, albeit limited to 15mbs.
    I’m always surprised that this kind of thing isn’t done more in the UK.
    Now I’m going to milk my goats by hand , whilst listening to Radio 4 🙂

    • jwebster2 August 14, 2020 at 5:59 am Reply

      Depending on the size of the aerial the planning system would get involved.
      But other than that the local authorities have kept totally out of the loop
      One problem is that thanks to a nationalised phone service we have an awful lot of copper wire, very few houses cannot get a landline. But because for telephone use, aluminium is perfectly adequate, a lot of lines have aluminium cable in them instead of copper and that is apparently useless for broadband.

      Our main problem is that there are probably only a couple of houses around us that could join in on any scheme so it’s far too small to be viable.
      Give my best to the goats, I’ve always had an irrational liking for goats 🙂

      • Eddy Winko August 14, 2020 at 8:58 am

        I think maybe the advantage here is that land lines are not common,, the only wire that the houses have here is electricity, so they went wireless right from the start. Aerials are little over 50x10cm, so less intrusive than satellite dishes I’d guess and we connect to one over a km away for the council free internet. Our main internet is several km away! Maybe there is some licensing restriction in the uk?

      • jwebster2 August 14, 2020 at 10:36 am

        Inevitably there will be. Certainly licenses to radio frequencies are worth more than gold dust

  4. Doug August 14, 2020 at 6:53 am Reply

    You’d probably have better luck just getting the border moved South, I did a lot of work with Scottish Government setting up structures to get rural communities connected. They put a lot of money into it as the broadband rollout was incredibly slow and the USO was useless.

    • jwebster2 August 14, 2020 at 7:15 am Reply

      The problem with that is we’d have to have the scots government. They would destroy our town, it depends on building nuclear
      In fact a lot of the good jobs in Cumbria that aren’t government tend to be related to the nuclear industry

  5. Cathy Cade August 14, 2020 at 7:57 am Reply

    We looked into satellite internet while we were waiting for BT to get around to installing our fibre optic upgrade. On overhead cables (across fields) our speeds were similar to those I recall in the days of dial-up (remember those?) When the nearby town was all on fibre optic, our speeds declined even further (since our overhead cable was connected to the same supply – eventually).
    Grants are available for satellite internet. Sadly, we were told that our supplier (BT) had informed them that we were due to have our fibre optic nstalled within the year, so we weren’t eligible for the grant.
    Two years later, we were still waiting. We got there eventually, but that’s another frustrating story.

    • jwebster2 August 14, 2020 at 8:40 am Reply

      The problem with satellite is that, apparently, the time lag (the signal travels 60,000 miles to the satellite and back) means that being part of a zoom meeting is pretty well impossible. (Also on-line gaming is impossible, which worries me not at all because, almost by definition, it’s not something I’ve ever done)
      But zoom etc is something I have to be able to do

  6. jenanita01 August 14, 2020 at 8:13 am Reply

    I am suddenly grateful for my internet connection, even though it has more hiccups than a drunkard…

    • jwebster2 August 14, 2020 at 8:38 am Reply

      ours hiccups as well, it’ll drop out briefly etc

      • jenanita01 August 14, 2020 at 6:59 pm

        I swear its to stop us getting complacent!

      • jwebster2 August 14, 2020 at 8:32 pm

        or to inculcate a pathetic sense of gratitude that we have any connectivity at all 😦

  7. Stevie Turner August 14, 2020 at 8:48 am Reply

    Good God – £70 – 100,000? That’s ridiculous! They must be short of money due to Covid…

    • jwebster2 August 14, 2020 at 10:38 am Reply

      I suspect it’s a ‘go away and don’t bother us’ sort of estimate 😦

  8. Jane Sturgeon August 14, 2020 at 9:06 am Reply

    It’s the old rule of thumb. If you don’t want to do it, price it out of court! Flippin’ heck, Jim.

    • jwebster2 August 14, 2020 at 10:36 am Reply

      Yes it did strike me as an “Sod you and the horse you rode in on” sort of estimate. I’m interested to see what they tell us in writing

      • Jane Sturgeon August 14, 2020 at 10:52 am

        Your expressions are priceless and this one made me laugh out loud, Jim! 😉

      • jwebster2 August 14, 2020 at 12:08 pm


  9. Doug Jacquier August 14, 2020 at 9:33 pm Reply

    Hold on, Jim, Elon’s on his way to rescue you. 😉 https://decrypt.co/33080/elon-musk-invites-users-to-test-starlink-space-internet

    • jwebster2 August 15, 2020 at 4:25 am Reply

      I suppose he expects to have so many satellites that the latency comes down because the nearest one isn’t too far away. I await with interest an estimate of the cost

      • Doug Jacquier August 15, 2020 at 5:44 am

        Oh, ye of little faith 😉 Of course the intangible cost will be to stargazers when his chain of twinklers and thousands of other such satellites are launched very shortly.

      • jwebster2 August 15, 2020 at 5:48 am

        yes, I’m not keen on them for exactly that reason 😦

  10. robbinsg August 15, 2020 at 11:19 am Reply

    We had a BT subcontractor along our road. They are putting full-fat fibre cables in so we can have FTTP. Evidently, the reason for this is that we are considered to be broadband deprived. I know, I know, weep for me. I mean, we get 80mb/s here at Chateau Indebto. Sometimes it drops to 78 and there’s hell to pay.

    Still, I won’t be deprived much longer – 256mb/s here we come! Perhaps you should write to Boris and tell him you’re deprived.

    • jwebster2 August 15, 2020 at 2:17 pm Reply

      Good grief, we are running at 1% of that

  11. Widdershins August 16, 2020 at 12:52 am Reply

    We’re at the ‘end of the line’ too … it makes for fun times, sometimes.

    • jwebster2 August 16, 2020 at 7:38 am Reply

      Yes I can imagine. Look on the bright side, it’s not like we’re worried about how much we spend on netflix and streaming services 🙂

  12. Liz Wright August 17, 2020 at 4:23 pm Reply

    Hi can I use this one in the smallholder?

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