Highlighting Harrogate's broadband 'postcode lottery'

The digital divide - Even parts of urban Harrogate are labouring under poor broadband speeds.
The digital divide - Even parts of urban Harrogate are labouring under poor broadband speeds.

Broadband is still a postcode lottery in Harrogate, new figures commissioned by the Harrogate Advertiser have revealed.

Winners and losers: Harrogate broadband speed figures

Flashback to last year: Janet Edmunds, Pat Anderson and Deborah Powell of The Washburn Heritage Centre at Fewston near Harrogate which is still reporting poor broadband at this popular community resource. (1711262AM1)

Flashback to last year: Janet Edmunds, Pat Anderson and Deborah Powell of The Washburn Heritage Centre at Fewston near Harrogate which is still reporting poor broadband at this popular community resource. (1711262AM1)

Based on an analysis of more than 5,000 speed test results collected over the last 12 months in the Harrogate area, the new figures reveal a startling geographical divide which is most stark in rural parts of the district.

The fastest part of Harrogate is in, and around, the town centre where there is an average of more than 35Mbps.

For anyone living out of the town centre, the results are less impressive with an average speed of less than 20Mbps.

Broadband: How Harrogate compares to the rest of the country


The Harrogate Broadband Speed Report for the district, commissioned by the Harrogate Advertiser via Speedchecker Ltd shows places bypassed by the digital revolution in North Yorkshire are not, as had been thought, strictly limited to rural areas but also apply to parts of urban areas, too.

The national government, keen to improve matters for residents and businesses in a sometimes controversial partnership with the telecoms giant BT, defines superfast broadband as 24Mbps download speed.

By that standard, Harrogate’s average speed looks good as a whole - 28.95 Mbps compared to 23.90 in 16 other major towns and cities in UK.

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Fastest and lowest


The fastest part of Harrogate is the south east with 40 Mbps and the town centre where it is more than 35 Mbps.

But the report also implies hidden tales of isolated residents and businesses.

Speedchecker’s new figures shows the speed in Harrogate out of the centre is only an average of 20 Mbps, going down to less than 10 Mbps with the worst places lying in the north of Harrogate

As for other towns in the district, Knaresborough King James area performs relatively well at 31.81 Mbps.

But Ripon fares less well - Ripon Minster is 23.11 Mbps while Ripon Spa drops to 15.21 Mbps.

Perhaps less surprisingly, the new figures show the longstanding urban-rural divide in North Yorkshire is still alive and kicking.

In Nidd Valley it’s 16.92 Mbps, in Kirkby Malzeard it 12.55 Mbps whileTanfield labours at 8.67 Mbps.

Effects on residents


The impact of slow speeds on people’s daily lives is huge - not just on streaming movies or music or using Facebook but on businesses and education.

As recently as December 2017, this newspaper reported on the poor state of broadband in Fewston located eight miles from Harrogate and ten from Pateley Bridge.

Broadband speeds of local residents were as low as 1.2Mbps, a speed which made life particularly difficult for Washburn Heritage Centre, the villages’s award-winning heritage centre and community space.

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What North Yorkshire County Council is doing about broadband


Coun Don Mackenzie, North Yorkshire County Council’s executive member for access said the figures for superfast broadband, did not come as a surprise.

He said: “The figures reflect the marketplace - namely that it is much more attractive to commercial providers to seek subscribers in urban areas rather than in more thinly populated rural areas.

“That is why NYCC and SFNY stepped in in 2012 to begin a programme of using public money to subsidise the provision of high quality broadband to those rural areas which otherwise would never receive it.”

In 2102, North Yorkshire County Council launched a programme of using public money to subsidise the provision of high quality fibre optic broadband through its own purpose-built company NYnet in partnership with BT.

The programme’s stated aim at the time was to ensure “every single home and business in all of North Yorkshire enjoys speeds of at least 25 Mbps by the end of 2018.

The council’s own figures show this is unlikely to happen, though progress is still being made.

Coun Don Mackenzie, said this week the current situation was that about 90% of all premises in the county had access to superfast broadband.

But, he said, phase 3 of the council-led rollout should means that figure will rise to almost 95% by 2020/21.

Costs & where the money comes from


But these things are not cheap. In 2012 the average cost of connecting a premise to superfast broadband was £200 each. By 2016 that had risen to almost £600.

When funding of £20.5 million was agreed by North Yorkshire Council for phase three of its Superfast North Yorkshire programme back in 2016, it was revealed that just over £12 million of that sum would come from the authority’s own funds, £7.3 million from the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) and £1 million from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

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Winners and losers: Harrogate broadband speed figures