Rural couple told they’re too near the exchange to get fast broadband

26 Nov 2018

Image: © Bacho Foto/

A rural Scottish couple have been told by a UK broadband provider that they can’t get fast broadband because they are too near the exchange.

As many in rural Ireland will attest to, having nearby access to fast broadband remains just a pipe dream for now, following further controversy and setbacks to the National Broadband Plan. In a rural Scottish village, however, there seems to be an altogether different problem.

According to The Guardian, a man named Scott McFarlane and his wife, who are based in Oldmeldrum, have been requesting access to high-speed broadband, two years after it arrived in the village.

The request was made to broadband provider Openreach, but the company has so far rejected the requests, despite McFarlane’s claims that the lack of connectivity is harming his business as a self-employed oil industry worker with international clients. He claimed that his home gets an average speed of just 1Mbps, forcing the couple to turn off all other devices in their home to get a usable speed for one device.

As it turns out, the reason Openreach said it could not connect them to fibre broadband was because they were too close to the exchange, rather than being too far away.

Openreach responds

“It seems when Openreach decided to give Oldmeldrum fast broadband, the cheapest way to do so would be to not replace the old exchange, but instead to offer the majority of Oldmeldrum fast broadband via the green boxes around the village,” McFarlane said. “Those close to the exchange would not be offered fast broadband but remain connected to the old exchange.”

The company’s only solution was to suggest he and his partner lobby his neighbours to apply for a community fibre partnership to bring an upgrade to their house.

“I’m not sure it is my job to do their canvassing and pay them for the privilege to buy broadband from them at a more expensive price. It seems to me that they want me to help fund the scheme to guarantee their future profits,” McFarlane claimed.

In a statement to The Guardian, Openreach said: “Exchange-only lines are more complex and expensive to upgrade to faster, more reliable fibre technology, because they serve individual customers rather than the large clusters that connect to cabinets or nodes out in the street.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic