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UK broadband speeds are a postcode lottery, says survey

The biggest factor in the speed of your broadband might not be the company you buy it from, but your postcode, according to new research.

The biggest factor in the speed of your broadband might not be the company you buy it from, but your postcode. New research from price comparison service uSwitch -- which surveyed 90,000 people around the UK -- showed how moving even a couple of miles down the road might boost your Internet speeds by nearly 10 times.

It's a widespread problem, according to the survey, with more than 20 major towns and cities suffering from steep broadband gradients -- where the slowest area's average is half that of the fastest.

uSwitch broadband postcodes 10 worst

Birmingham has the most yawning broadband divide, with the lucky residents of Hamstead, Great Barr and Perry Barr -- that's B42, postcode fans -- enjoying an average of over 20Mbps, while their sluggish neighbours less than two miles away in Castle Vale (B35) have to make do with a ghastly 2.2Mbps. That's considerably slower.

As you'd expect, big cities dominate the list, with Glasgow, Bristol and London in the top five. I'd expect prosperity to play a large part here -- in the big smoke, rich neighbourhoods that can afford cable are often just around the corner from council estates with knackered wiring.

That's certainly the case in London, where leafy upper-class Greenwich zooms along on 22.46Mbps. Over the river in the inner-city estates around the Barbican, the average is a meagre 5.3Mpbs.

uSwitch claims this is partly a problem of marketing. "Super-fast broadband is available in many of the areas included in the research. However, although 65 per cent of UK households can now benefit from the service, many don't know it is available in their area," the company said in a statement.

The survey also echoes Ofcom's finding that, while average broadband speeds are increasing, many people can't afford to take advantage of fibre-optic cable, even if it's available in their area. This means income inequality is starting to be more of a factor in the kinds of services available.

Have you found high-speed Internet too expensive? Is your area notoriously slow? Give me the benefit of your insight below, or over on our Facebook page.