BT Openreach van being burned at bonfire night

Rural residents angry at slow broadband speeds burn effigy of BT van

Image credit: DevonLine/ WS

Residents of the poorly-connected hamlet of Templeton, Devon, celebrated Bonfire Night this year by setting alight an effigy of a BT Openreach van.

Each year, Templeton chooses a different theme for its Bonfire Night celebrations. This year, they chose to attack the telecommunications company they hold responsible for their poor connectivity. Working from one resident’s barn, they painted a 2D effigy of a BT Openreach van – considerably larger than the real thing – and crossed out the “open” on its side, replacing it with “won’t” to read “won’t reach”.

Many people living in the hamlet must cope with broadband speeds of less than 1Mbps. This highly restricts what residents are able to do online; such limited speeds make streaming music and video impractical.

Robert Linden, a resident, told BBC News that Templeton residents were told three years ago that the issue of slow connectivity would be given consideration, although no actions have been taken since.

“[BT] managed to get a cable to the nearby hamlet of Nomansland, but just eight kilometres further and there’s nothing,” Linden said. “It’s incompetence of the first order.”

“But we all had a great evening watching the bonfire.”

According to BT, it is a major challenge to carry out installation of fibre broadband in rural areas and it has been working to find means of delivering appropriate broadband speeds to Templeton.

“Templeton is an extremely rural community which makes rolling out fibre broadband much more challenging,” a BT spokesperson said in a statement. “Templeton was not included in Openreach’s commercial rollout of fibre broadband or the first phase of the Connecting Devon and Somerset partnership, but we’re working hard to find alternative ways of bringing faster broadband to residents.”

BT reported that its engineers had surveyed the area to determine whether faster connectivity could be brought to Templeton. It also said that Templeton residents had signed up to the company’s Community Fibre Partnership program and that it was looking at a mobile broadband solution with EE and other partners to deliver 4G to the area.

British broadband has come under heavy criticism for its slowness and unpredictability. People living in rural parts of the UK have suffered particularly badly from poor broadband speeds compared to urban populations. In June, residents of Altnaharra and Skerray, remote communities in the Scottish Highlands - fed up with speeds of 0.5Mbps - took to helping with the installation of new cables themselves.

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