Ofcom points out sluggish speeds and broadband divide in UK cities

Generally when we talk about the broadband divide, we're talking about the have-nots out in rural or remote areas who are stuck on very slow connections (see: A third of rural residents say their broadband isn't fast enough for web browsing), but the latest piece of Ofcom research has highlighted the disparity which can occur within cities themselves.

The watchdog found that there were certainly some folks living in urban areas who had to cope with a very slow broadband connection (less than 2Mbps), and that disadvantaged lower income areas of cities had slower connections on average.

The report, which focused on eleven cities across the UK, experienced considerable variations in its findings. When considering the issue of whether people were likely to be plagued with a slow Internet connection, Ofcom said that folks living in Cardiff or Inverness were twice as likely to be on a slower connection compared to those in London or Birmingham.

While Londonderry topped the rankings when it came to superfast broadband, with 99 per cent of its population covered, Glasgow performed far worse with only two-thirds coverage.

One common theme, though, was deprived urban areas experiencing worse average speeds. In the poorest areas of Belfast, 5.9 per cent of connections were found to be less than 2Mbps, compared to 2.2 per cent in high income districts. That's not surprising, though, given that low income families are less likely to be able to fork out for faster packages or fibre connections.

What's a bit more worrying is the fact that superfast availability seems to be worse in low income areas. Ofcom notes that the most income-deprived areas of Manchester had a superfast availability of 80.6 per cent, lower than the 86 per cent coverage the whole city benefits from. The disparity was even wider in Glasgow, with the citywide average being 67 per cent, compared to 57.8 per cent in the poorest area. That's barely more than half coverage in a major UK city.

Claudio Pollack, Ofcom's Consumer Group Director, said: "Access to fast broadband is an important part of modern life, and a source of economic growth and investment across the UK."

"We know from previous research that rural areas often lack fast broadband coverage, something the Government is helping to address with public funding. Today's findings suggest that the usage and availability of faster broadband also vary widely between cities. We will carry out further work in this area to help bring faster broadband to UK homes, whether in cities or rural areas."