On one hand we have the Government telling us all is well and we are on track for 95% superfast broadband coverage by some point in 2017 but the balance is often very passionately stated, and in coverage of a NFU Mutual survey the head of policy has made an interesting statement about FTTC based services.
"Our own research suggests that rural households are less likely to use 3G and 4G but these networks are coming sooner than fixed line broadband and represent a good alternative.
If you live 600 metres or more away from the cabinet you might as well be on dial-up."Sarah Lee, head of policy at the Countryside Alliance talking to the BBC
Saying FTTC runs out to dial-up speeds at 600m is only likely if the 600m of cable is aluminium with a great number of aging joints, or the 600m is a straight line distance and to reach the property the line meanders for around 3km of distance. Our own estimates of FTTC speeds over varying distances show at 600m speeds of 35 Mbps or more should be possible, at even allowing for a reasonably level or wiggly cable at 1km you are expecting speeds of 24 Mbps (an actual copper line at 1.1km with no special assistance has been tested in the real world at 21 Mbps). The speed table takes into account a fairly pessimistic level of cross-talk with the line data coming from old Ofcom information shared as part of the original approval process for VDSL2.
We are waiting on seeing more on the NFU Mutual survey results, as commenting based on the limited information available may result in a misinterpretation of the survey. The suggestion from the survey is that one in five rural families have poor broadband links and its interpretation depends on whether those who cannot get broadband at all are included, plus some families may NOT want broadband at all. As things stand 1 in 5 rural links being poor actually sounds a pretty good figure, unless you are one of those of course.
The Countryside Alliance is not the only people making claims about FTTC speeds this week, a blog entitled the 'The Occasional Berk' has claimed FTTC has a speed limit of 350m ("the real world of old cables of mixed types is just 350 metres").
What is clear is that the UK broadband battle to improve broadband speeds is not a technical issue, but rather a battle of wills and personal experience. Of course once you remove the passion of personal experience you get the sort of statements from the BDUK about coverage targets and progress, at least the BDUK so far appears to have been only counting those postcodes which are likely to get superfast broadband speeds in its occasional coverage figures. Of course the debate then moves onto the one where the UK has backed the wrong horse in the form of BT and we are perpetuating a decades old monopoly. In an ideal world even if two or three firms had won the various BDUK projects, each firm would have effectively been gifted a monopoly superfast franchise for the final third of each local authority area, the same thing that happened in the 1980's when cable TV started.