Decent internet access is one of the necessities of modern life for most people – making it an important factor to consider when buying a home.
As a nation, we have become increasingly reliant on broadband, with 69 per cent of internet users saying they would be deterred from purchasing a new property if it didn’t have a high-speed internet connection, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
It also found that almost three-quarters of people consider broadband access to be of “critical importance”.
Finding out you are virtually cut off from the world wide web can have a huge impact on all members of the household from schoolchildren who need the internet to do their homework, to businessmen and women who need to log on at home; it can also put an end to any thoughts of flexible working.
“Along with concerns over crime rates, distance to schools and amenities in the local area, buyers also need to think about internet access in the area they are hoping to move to,” says Sebastien Lahtinen from broadband advice site Thinkbroadband.com. “Make sure you check availability before moving to avoid disappointment.”
Some connections are slower
As many rural areas depend on copper wire rather than fibre-optic links to and from exchanges, internet connections can be a lot slower. But problems are not limited to rural areas, as some towns can suffer too.
To combat this, the government recently announced its Digital Britain campaign, promising super-fast broadband in more than 12 million homes by 2015, along with a hit list of blackspots under scrutiny.
It is planning on spending £830 million on guaranteeing that every region benefits from a super-fast broadband connection, with £363 million of that figure dedicated to improving services in rural areas.
The problem is, this roll-out isn’t due to complete for another five years, and in the meantime, broadband in Britain remains slow in some areas and unobtainable in others.
Given that living without internet access can be hugely frustrating, here’s our guide to ensuring you don’t buy in a broadband blackspot.
Beware of not-spots and slow-spots
You can check if the area you are looking to move to is a broadband not-spot area (an area where you cannot get broadband services) or a slow-spot (an area where you can only get a broadband service by visiting a site such as www.broadband-notspot.org.uk.
You should also contact your broadband provider to find out details of speeds in that area.
Talk to your estate agent
Ask your estate agent to check internet service provider details and speed with the seller of the property you are planning to buy, as this will give you an insight into any issues from a very accurate source.
If the existing owner can provide you with the telephone number and postcode for the property, you can also use these to check the estimated speed on provider websites – helping you to find the right provider for you.
Check your speed
Use a speed checker to test the speed of your connection.
Tips to improve your broadband speed
If you have already moved, and currently have a slow service, there are several steps you can take to try and speed things up.
“The position of the router can have a significant effect on the quality of your wireless connection,” says Michael Phillips of Broadbandchoices.co.uk. “So place it in an area where the signal will be affected by as few obstructions and as little interference as possible, such as walls, furniture and electrical appliances.”
Unless you have an “ADSL faceplate filter” in your master socket, you need to ensure every single phone extension with any device attached, such as a phone, modem, fax, or alarm has a micro-filter, as these help to remove interference that can cause slowdowns.
Think about your computer
As older computer browsers may handle data in a less efficient way it may be worth upgrading your browser.
“Keep an eye on applications that continue to run in the background, as some discreetly start when you log in, slowing you down,” says Phillips. “To avoid this, set applications so they don’t run automatically.”
Secure your network with a password, as if you are unwittingly sharing your connection with unauthorised users, they will be using up valuable bandwidth – not to mention the security threat this poses.
Finally, as the times of day at which you go online can greatly affect connection speeds, try to surf in the daytime, or very late at night, when traffic is low.