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1.6 million premises still suffer with poor broadband as remote working continues

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BT Telecom Tower London
The Telecom Tower in London as BT reported a weekday daytime increase in demand of between 35% to 60% in March as people started to work from home extensively. Photo: Peter Nicholls/Reuters

As Britain continues to work from home to combat the spread of coronavirus, 1.6 million UK premises are still unable to access adequate broadband speeds.

This number represents 5% of properties across the country that are unable to get online with speeds of at least 30Mbps, a report from the National Audit Office has revealed.

Although this means that coverage is at 95%, it is not consistent across areas or types of premises.

In 2010, the government announced its aim for the UK to have the best superfast broadband network in Europe, establishing the Superfast Broadband Programme to support roll-out to areas which were not commercially viable.

It has since committed to a date of 2025 for nationwide coverage and allocated £5bn ($6.5bn) to its UK gigabit programme, to subsidise roll-out to the most difficult to reach areas.

The independent public spending watchdog said that a fifth of UK properties in rural areas are unable to access these speeds compared to just 3% in urban areas.

READ MORE: Coronavirus Lockdown leads to 99% increase in high-speed broadband take-up

Overall, England has higher coverage compared to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. While urban coverage is broadly the same across the four nations, rural coverage varies and, at 66%, is lowest in Northern Ireland, according to Ofcom.

It comes as the UK’s broadband infrastructure has been tested rigorously in recent months. There has been an unprecedented increase in daytime demand for internet services as more people work and study from home and keep in touch with friends and family using video conferencing tools.

BT reported a weekday daytime increase in demand of between 35% to 60% in March as people started to work from home extensively.

Ofcom considers the existing infrastructure to have held up well amid the pandemic, although there has been some congestion at local levels.

As internet traffic continues to grow at around 40% each year, driven largely by video streaming, some homes and places of work also may fail to experience their advertised speeds. This is either due to poor-quality copper lines, distance from the cabinet or factors in the home affecting performance.

WATCH: How remote working impacts the broader economy

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