Tuesday, 28 July 2009
Back in January 2009, Ofcom and Samknows released the first part of the report into broadband speeds. The map on page 9 worried a few folk about geographical distribution, in particular to highlight the growing problems in rural areas....so....
We phoned Samknows to ask why there were seemingly very few routers being placed to test speeds in known rural crap and notspots eg Cumbria, Lancashire, North Yorkshire and Northumberland. Our concern was that the data set would be skewed by the lack of inclusion of such results, particularly given the prevalence of extremely long lines in such areas, which rarely exist in urban situations. By not including such places, there would be a continuation of the failure to gather:
a) accurate hard data about the reality of the situation in rural broadband Britain
b) a higher than expected average speed for the UK as a whole, skewed by urban connections.
Those involved in the trial were chosen from online panels etc to give a broad, representative picture of the UK. We found it hard to see how bordering on zero respondents from rural northern England could be 'representative', and were promptly sent 5 units to attach to rural northern broadband lines. We asked for more to bring rural Britain data into the picture - 200 would have been great, giving rural and remote at least a 10% involvement in the survey. Samknows asked Ofcom and Ofcom said, "No."
We asked if the rural data could be separated out from the urban data to give average rural speeds compared to urban speeds, so that a clearer picture would emerge of rural connectivity problems. Apparently this was not possible either, although there is a short section on p.45 showing how rural vs urban compare from the existing respondents.
Whilst it may well be that additional weighting has been given to rural, as well as regional etc factors, without a suitable number of people in known rural crap/notspots and on long lines taking part, the figures can only be misleading.
The only comprehensive and hard data about what rural lines are capable of with regard to broadband speed, how many rural people can/cannot get broadband, line lengths etc is available from BT. Who declare this data is a matter of commercial senstivity. We contend that the data is a matter of public and national importance for the social and economic well-being of this country, and should be released to Ofcom and the public so that the true position is known and wise spending decisions can be made.
Therefore, we ask Ofcom to:
A) Produce comprehensive urban vs rural data from its existing data set AT THE EARLIEST OPPORTUNITY.
B) Show average connections by line length from this data set
C) Accept this "stakeholder consultation" on point 1.17 (P. 11 of the latest report into broadband speeds) - to add more northern rural testers, known long lines and crapspots into the next survey.
D) Conduct a similar survey of remote and rural households and businesses ONLY as a matter of urgency.
We believe these are reasonable requests in order to establish precisely how widespread the problem is in rural areas and to direct funding exactly where it is needed.
Posted by Cybersavvy UK at 15:02