A BASINGSTOKE resident has found himself caught in the digital divide with his internet provider failing to offer him a higher internet speed for his home.

Connell Parr, a 31-year-old resident of Westminster Close in Kempshott Rise, is a senior software engineer, who had been eagerly waiting for the Fibre First Town Programme being rolled out by Openreach.

Since the inclusion of Basingstoke in its ambitious Fibre First Town Programme, Connell had been observing Openreach gradually rolling out fibre broadband in the borough, so that he would get better internet speed when it finally reached his street.

His current internet speed is around 30mpbs for download and 5mpbs for upload. With fibre, this was expected to increase by about 30 times.

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In June 2023, Openreach conducted roadworks on his street, to facilitate the fibre rollout.

However, despite the completion of these works, Connell discovered that only two out of the 16 houses in Westminster Close, where he resides, were able to place orders for the high-speed broadband.

Connell said: "I noticed two of the 16 houses down the close could order it, but the other 14 couldn't, so I got in contact with Openreach to see whether the checker was wrong or to otherwise find out what was going on."

This sparked a three-month-long back-and-forth with Openreach, during which Connell received mixed messages, leaving him in a state of uncertainty.

In a conversation at the end of September, Openreach admitted it had made an error during the rollout in Connell's street.

He said: “They said they had originally planned to fully cover Westminster Close in their rollout in June but due to a planning mistake, for which they admit fault, they did not have required equipment available and as such skipped the majority of the houses." 

Despite this admission, Openreach insisted that the rollout in Basingstoke is considered complete, Connell added, and further plans are unlikely until December 2026.

Connell, who works from home, expressed his disappointment, highlighting the impact on both his professional and personal life.

With limited internet speeds, he faces challenges in productivity and encounters bandwidth competition within his household.

Despite exhausting all avenues for resolution, including contacting Virgin Media, Connell has hit a dead end with no feasible alternatives.

Virgin has labelled Connell's address as 'unserviceable'. 

With no feasible alternatives in sight, Connell is faced with the prospect of self-funding a high-speed connection.

Reflecting on the cost, he said: "I got a quote for it back in November or December, and it's about £7,000. But that's got basically a two-year lead. And there's other costs thousands and thousands of pounds on top as well."

When contacted for a comment, an Openreach spokesperson said Connell's address was not in its build plan right now, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be in future.

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The spokesperson said: “Whenever we add an exchange area to our plans, we do aim to upgrade as many properties in that area as possible, but we’re also clear that we’re unlikely to reach them all.

“Some homes are inevitably much harder and more expensive to upgrade - for example they might involve gaining extra permissions, a road closure, or much higher civil engineering costs – and, because of these complexities, our build plans do change occasionally.

“Having carried out detailed engineering survey work in Westminster Close, we found that this address is served by cables which were buried directly in the ground. Normally, cables would be housed in an underground duct or connected via overhead poles, making them much easier to replace or upgrade. We’re sorry that this forced a change in our plans and that this information wasn’t conveyed as quickly as it should have been.

“We’re still on track to make Full Fibre available to 25 million UK homes by end of 2026 and 60 per cent of homes and businesses in the Basingstoke exchange area can now order an ultrafast service from a provider of their choice.  We also intend to go further and we’re constantly innovating with new deployment tools and techniques to tackle trickier, more expensive routes."