Search This Blog

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Samknows/Ofcom speed survey results fail to show true picture of rural plight

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

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.


GuyJ said...

Absolutely right on target!

The survey results are frankly meaningless based on such a small sample size and it is to be expected that people requesting the monitoring routers are a self-selecting group of technically more aware users, able to tweak their settings to get better performance than most non-technical subscribers would be able to achieve.

BT knows exactly how crap ADSL broadband is in rural areas.


Simple - the other end of each and every home and business ADSL modem/router is connected to a port on a DSLAM at the local exchange, over which BT has full automated data collection capability.

Unless, of course, the exchange has been LLU (Local Loop Unbundled)

In reality there are no deeply rural exchanges in this position, perhaps due to potential unbundlers realising that the sorry state of rural copper wire infrastructure doesn't justify their investment?

So come on OFCOM - reject this spurious "Commercially Confidential" bleating, demand the raw DLSAM stats from BT, anonymise the data and publish on the basis of partial postcodes the sorry reality of rural broadband Britain.

PhilT said...

"In reality there are no deeply rural exchanges in this position, perhaps due to potential unbundlers realising that the sorry state of rural copper wire infrastructure doesn't justify their investment?"

lack of subscribers to justify the cost. Getting some small percentage of users on a 400 line exchange is of no economic interest to anyone, not to mention the extra costs of getting to it.