Slow rural internet speeds 'adding hours to working day' during lockdown

Added strain on our region's internet services during the lockdown is providing challenges and frustration in some rural areas.

Many more people across the West Country are working from home with many children studying at home too.

Slow rural internet speeds are having an impact far and wide with some people having to get up early to use the internet at off-peak hours.

The huge number of people now online is putting extra scrutiny on network providers.

Providers including BT/EE, Openreach, Virgin Media, Sky, TalkTalk, O2, Vodafone, Three, Hyperoptic, Gigaclear and KCOM have agreed to the following:

  • To remove all data allowance caps on all current fixed broadband services. Mobile companies have also agreed to allow all self-identified NHS frontline workers the data, voice and texts they need at no extra cost on their personal mobiles. This will mean unlimited mobile data.

  • Generous mobile and landline packages can be offered to ensure people are connected and the most vulnerable are supported. This includes some providers automatically providing improved packages e.g. data boosts, putting caps on bills etc, for some or all consumers. In other cases, customers would need to take up the offer.

  • Vulnerable customers or those self-isolating will receive alternative methods of communication wherever possible if priority repairs to fixed broadband and landlines cannot be carried out. E.g. if someone is self-isolating, an engineer may not come into someone's house and the alternative means of communication might be left outside.

The huge number of people now online is putting extra scrutiny on network providers. Credit: PA

As well as providers, Facebook, Instagram, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney Plus and Youtube have all reduced their video-bit rate.

This means that streaming takes up less data.

Credit: PA

Here are some tips for maximising your internet signal:

  • Keep your router as far away as possible from other devices, and those which operate wirelessly. Cordless phones, baby monitors etc

  • Place your router on a table or shelf rather than on the floor, and keep it switched on.

  • Switch off wifi reception on other devices when they're not being used.

  • When carrying out video calls or meetings, turning the video off and using audio only will require much less of your internet connection; or try starting them at less common times, rather than on the hour or half hour.

  • Managing your family’s online activity, so that different people aren’t carrying out data-heavy tasks (like HD streaming, gaming or video calls) all at the same time can also help. Downloading video in advance, instead of streaming it, can also help.

  • Use an Ethernet cable to connect your computer directly to your router rather than using wifi where possible.

  • Try not to use a telephone extension lead, as these can cause interference which could lower your speed. If you have to use an extension lead, use a new, high-quality cable with the shortest possible length.

  • Tangled and coiled cables can also affect speeds. So can interference from your phone line, so try plugging ‘microfilters’ into every phone socket in your home. They look like little white boxes and split the phone and broadband signals so that they don't affect each other. Different providers have varying setups in the home, so always check their website before unplugging any cables.