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New map shows broadband slow spots – but here are our best broadband tools

By John - July 8, 2011

Communications regulator Ofcom has published a colourful online map showing the state of broadband in the UK.

It shows broadband take-up in each area, average connection speeds and what percentage of homes can’t even manage a paltry 2Mbps speed. (In 2009 the government said everyone should be able to get a 2Mbps connection by 2012, then in 2010 it said that wouldn’t happen until 2015.)

The map also shows the availability of superfast broadband – the type that’s supplied over fibre-optic connections rather than down your phone line.

The colours tell their own story. Edinburgh is fastest overall, with an average speed of 10.1Mbps. At the other end of the scale is Fermanagh in Northern Ireland, with an average speed of 4.3Mbps.

And spare a thought for residents of Cooktown – also in Northern Ireland – where nearly 36% of phone lines can’t even manage a 2Mbps connection.

A useful snapshot?

Although it’s an interesting snapshot of broadband across the whole country, it’s hard to see what practical use this map has for those of us who might be considering switching broadband provider, or want to know why we can’t get broadband.

Each area covered is broad. For instance, the whole of Greater London is marked in a single colour – even though there are vast discrepancies in broadband speeds and availability within the capital. Most areas seem to correspond to whole counties, within which there can be huge variation.

Are you in a blackspot?

If you’re moving house, you really want to be able to make sure you’re not heading for a broadband blackspot, or review the likely speeds and providers available in your area. This map won’t help with that at all.

Ofcom promises to release a more detailed map later in the year, but in the meantime, there are a few other good places to turn for a rundown of local broadband:

  • Samknows can show you what broadband services are available in any area if you punch in a postcode. You can even click a street on a map to see how far it is from your local telephone exchange and what broadband speeds you can probably expect.
  • Thinkbroadband have a similar suite of tools, including a super-cool interactive map  that shows you lots of interesting stats, including real-world speed test results and estimated speeds.
  • Talking of estimated speeds, there are lots of broadband speed tests out there, including Speedtest, the BBC’s iPlayer test and other internet speed checkers. It can be eye-opening to compare your actual speed to that quoted by your broadband supplier.
  • And if speed tests show you’re in a broadband black spot, Broadband Notspot (also brought to your by Thinkbroadband) lets you report it, so it can be added to a map to help others.

We think everyone deserves a fast internet connection. But how’s the broadband in your area?