Broadband News

News, views and analysis

SamKnows kicks-off project to map UK Broadband Notspots.

26 May 2009 | 22.00 Europe/London
Two weeks ago we were contacted by the BBC who wanted to run a story on UK Broadband. This followed on from a meeting we’d previously had with them where we’d discussed the lack of information around ‘Not-spots’, what they are, where they are and what they mean, etc…

Fortunately we’d just completed a project with our friends at The Community Broadband Network to explore the same problem, focussing on England, on behalf of the Commission for Rural Communities. Even before this though, we’d been trying to fill a real gap in our knowledge about what it would feel like to live in an area of slow/no Broadband. Because we use the SamKnows Availability checker whilst deciding where to live (sad but true!), it’s been a while since any of us have anything but good Broadband Availability, apart from Adelaide! Or so she keeps telling us, (sigh). This puts us into a category that includes the majority of the UK, thanks to a well developed Broadband network and a high population density. However, thanks to campaigners like the tireless Lindsey Annison we’ve been ‘brought up to speed’ (poor choice of words) and now understand that living in a slow/no Broadband area means not being able to do basic things, that we take for granted, like shop online, send/receive email, watch iPlayer or use ‘cool’ sites like Facebook, Twitter and of course

Once we understood the implication of slow/no Broadband the next step was to map the extent of the problem. It’s worth noting that our project to ‘map’ England for the CBN/CRC took 4 months, but we had only a few days. What we decided to do was map a geographic sample of postcodes that we know (from information about their Telephone Exchanges) would have slower Broadband speeds. Simply put, this shows us, that slow/no Broadband is not limited to a single area, but is instead spread across the entire UK, please see map at Even with this superficial research we can see the complexity of the problem that faces the Government and why in the Digital Britain report they suggested that a combination of technologies would be used: Fixed line, Cable, Mobile Broadband and potentially Satellite.

Whilst this initial BBC project serves only as an indication of the geographic spread of slow/no Broadband. We’re even more intrigued (can anyone be even more intrigued?), by this problem and intend to spend the coming weeks, aside from our project with Ofcom to benchmark the performance of the UK’s ISPs, to produce a much more accurate and comprehensive map.
prchandler says:
Well, you can add EN7 5NE to you map of Notspots
27 May 2009 | 07.52 Europe/London
PILTOC says:
If you are serious about mapping the 'not spots' I would suggest you get a complete map of the UK.
27 May 2009 | 08.02 Europe/London
chrisdoyle says:
your checker (via bt?) says we can get broadband, but despite repeated engineer visits we can't. LA2 8NZ. 10 properties here are a notspot. A further 100 can only get half a meg and constant failures.Yet BT stats say we have access. Faulty data being used by govt. Winston Churchill said 'I love statistics, I can make them say anything I like' and Marie Antoinette said 'Let them eat Cake' I say let govt talk to and listen to grassroots people.
27 May 2009 | 08.06 Europe/London
Neil says:
chrisdoyle - Accoring to our website: ADSL is available in your area, however your line is very unlikely to be able to support ADSL, although a 256kbps service may be available.
27 May 2009 | 08.53 Europe/London
chrisdoyle says:
Congratulations, you are in a broadband enabled area. Hi Neil, my point exactly! Govt are using the stats that say 'ADSL is available in your area' I put my dads postcode and number in and got this: "The following services are available in your location: BT Wholesale ADSL BT Wholesale ADSL Max Please select the options on the left for more information about broadband availability at your location". Yes,he can get adsl, but upload is impossible, Iplayer and youtube won't load, we tried 3g and it takes 47 hours to download open office, yet to govt we 'have broadband'.
27 May 2009 | 09.13 Europe/London
gvheard says:
Also interesting is the variability between houses in a single postcode. I, and my next door neighbour both have a service provided by Demon internet. Both services are supposed to be "up to 4 Mb/s", but there is a large divergence between the 2 houses. I have never had a connection that runs faster than 1152Kb/s, my neighbour gets 1972Kb/s. As an experiment, we swapped everything, router, microfilters, and reconnected -- absolutely no difference in line speed, so there must be something either on the line, or at the exchange (we did leve the equipment swapped over for 2 weeks to see if any line rateadaption took place, it didn't.
27 May 2009 | 10.48 Europe/London
blowdart says:
I had to register just to comment on this. I had thought the BBC has misreported your comments, but now I see they haven't. "that living in a slow/no Broadband area means not being able to do basic things, that we take for granted, like shop online, send/receive email" You can't get email without broadband? Oh what utter tosh. What did I do when all I had was a modem? That's right I used morse code. Come on, that's hyperbole and you know it. You can get emails over modems, just like you can over GPRS. It may be slow, but it works. Ditto with on-line shopping. And complaining that twitter, a service which limits inputs to 160 characters doesn't work over broadband is verging on laughable.
27 May 2009 | 11.26 Europe/London
Fibre1 says:
"Yes,he can get adsl, but upload is impossible, Iplayer and youtube won’t load" - maybe he should try a decent ISP, or get his system sorted out. "Upload is impossible" is not an issue of availability.
27 May 2009 | 11.37 Europe/London
Fibre1 says:
"I have never had a connection that runs faster than 1152Kb/s, my neighbour gets 1972Kb/s" - I have sorted out connections that have gone from 600k to 4M by getting the internal house wiring right. If you always get exactly 1152 you may be on a fixed rate 1M service. Equally there could just be longer / thinner / different quality phone lines involved.
27 May 2009 | 11.39 Europe/London
Narrowboatsrule says:
This is the 21st Century and not having access to broadband is like living in the dark ages! We’ve been told by BT that broadband is simply not going to happen for us as we live too far away from the exchange. There is also the issue of line concentrators that are used throughout Wales (also known as DAX) which prevents broadband being supplied. BT needs to start upgrading an antiquated network NOW. So come on BT - get rid of the line concentrators on Carmarthenshire phone lines and spend some money on upgrading the telecoms network that was promised back in 2001 – Wales needs broadband.
27 May 2009 | 15.14 Europe/London
harry says:
I pay for up to 8Mb in SG8 5PS, and get about 600-700k. We live at the end of 5 miles of aluminium foil. NTL put cable to the local college, but didn't think it was worth it to supply the houses in the village..
27 May 2009 | 21.24 Europe/London
chrisdoyle says:
@blowdart, twitter is 140 characters, get your facts right. @fibre1, upload is so slow there is no point in trying to send a photo to anyone, trust me. And we have an excellent ISP who has done everything to make sure we get the best service for dad that is possible. It is a totally new line and all the house is new too. No stone has been left unturned. Please don't assume everyone who posts is thick. It is an issue of availability, a slow spot is as bad as a notspot, because it puts people off, and that is bad for UKplc, we want people to engage, not go backwards.
28 May 2009 | 08.12 Europe/London
buzzlightspeed says:
I have been watching this debate for years now, (and have occasionally put my head above the parapet)I have listened to and watched videos, read all the reports (dozens), attended events, met and studied the work of many of the names who are banging the drum for better broadband, both here, the states and europe, one thing I have learned is that those attacking the current powers that be are not all lily white themselves and will often create division and strife where none existed, anger, blame, personal attacks, misinformation, rants and sometimes downright lies will not serve those communities who are struggling to understand and rectify thier own situation. I have been quietly travelling and talking face to face with rural communities across the country for a while now and can tell you that much of the online debate leaves them cold, being seen as filled with thinly veiled (and sometimes not veiled) vitriol, misinformation and personal attacks between groups and individual campaigners, some of these groups / individuals are often no different to those they attack. We have invested around £40,000+ so far scoping out our own local solution, checking out national bodies, accuracy of information and the opinions and pronunications of broadband "experts" and "activists", this has taught us that there are many types of "experts" and "activists" all with thier own agendas, many of them cannot answer the simplest questions satisfactorily, they do not grasp the resources required just to enter the debate, nor do they respect other peoples time and effort spent just talking to them, neither do they display basic human respect for anothers opinion or solutions, many more all have the "best" answer (or no answer at all just an opinion). The most effective way to solve your problem and to make something happen is not to engage in the national shouting match about how bad broadband is but to put your own energy and money into creating your own local solution with out reference to those powers and individuals that are incapable of solutions or useful dialogue for personal, political, economic or systemic reasons, Go and source information that is out in the public domain for free (and there is a lot of it) think for ones self and get on with producing your own solution to your own local problem. Grow your own waterlily and then sit and watch those who have grown thier own decide whether to link up with you or not. We are years behind our european and international neigbours what are you going to do about it in your own local community? You are either part of the solution or not, you are either going to make something happen or not the choice is up to all of us, Work it out for yourself, are you a talker or a doer............. I watch with interest to see if this post creates any responses.
28 May 2009 | 17.18 Europe/London
Fibre1 says:
"upload is so slow there is no point in trying to send a photo to anyone, trust me." Upload on fixed speed ADSL is 30 kbytes/s, MaxDSL is faster. If you were to upload a needlessly high resolution photo like 3 Mbytes it would take 1000 seconds or about 20 minutes - does it do that ? If not either it's broken or he's on some naff oversubscribed cheap ISP.
29 May 2009 | 13.47 Europe/London
Fibre1 says:
"I watch with interest to see if this post creates any responses." I agree with much of what you have said. There are a number of serial liars out their masquerading as activists, it's a psychological condition that appears in a number of walks of life. They attract a number of faithful followers to chant their slogans too. We all know what good activism does - take CND and the Stop the War Coalition as examples of the achieved success rate. I would probably digress from your views about the solution, we haven't seen a sustainable model for providing large scale internet access on a community basis in the UK (even with grant funding). In some places there isn't a community to start with. In others they'll prefer their AOL or their "free" Talk Talk connection to anything better. In many areas of the country their isn't yet an external connection of sufficient capacity available at a price that would make distributing it via wireless or fibre viable. The economies of sale are against you. You say you have spent £40,000+ - what has been delivered to how many users ?
29 May 2009 | 13.55 Europe/London
chrisdoyle says:
To Buzz and Fibre 1 We got 25k funding and provided wireless network for 23 homes incl homeworkers and 12 businesses in an area that the checker says is broadband enabled but nobody can get a connection. Part of the funding was for training to learn how to maintain the network. We have run that network ourselves for 5 years. We haven't needed more funding after the kickstart. We also run another community network for 180 people with no funding. We are the first rural community to lay and light our own fibre. I hope you weren't meaning that I was a ranter, I know I can drone on a bit from time to time but at least you can rest assured that most of us fiwi groupies actually walk the talk. I know lots of other rural groups doing the same as us, and they speak the same language. We all know something has to be done, our lily pads are here, but we are such a small speck in the big lake. We are also at a stalemate because we can't get enough bandwidth, £76k pa to join a fat pipe. So buzz and fibre1, how many networks have you built? O and sometimes people do want to shift 3 meg files, or upload 100meg movies to youtube. Why should we stay in the dark ages when all it needs is for someone to give us all light? Cmon baby light the fibre. A fat pipe runs right by our village, but the POP is in the town, and that is why it would cost so much to get it to us. If govt would just get some more Points of Presence in rural areas we could do so much more.
29 May 2009 | 20.51 Europe/London
chrisdoyle says:
o and Fibre 1 dad has a great ISP and no stone has been left unturned to tune it up, but he can't even send really small files without getting frustrated and annoyed with it all. Not good if we want to engage all members of the community, and if that was a house with kids they would soon walk away and leave it. Why should they pay £20 a month for that sort of service? rural people have the short end of the straw.
29 May 2009 | 21.02 Europe/London
chrisdoyle says:
Hi buzz there's the proof and you are very welcome to come and talk to us, we welcome anyone and will help others anytime, like all the other rural networks I know. Maybe buzz you have been talking to the wrong groups? are you happy with the response to your post? You sound like a chap I know, maybe you are him LOL. I know a group who has done just what you say you have done, and they have my respect, they walk the talk and have delivered wifi and bonded adsl broadband to many disadvantaged people, I wonder if it is the same group... does it start with an 'S'?
29 May 2009 | 21.11 Europe/London
Jon says:
Add GU35 9JP to the notspot list even though the checker claims availablity. DACS and distance from the exchange issues, one house has 256k and that took about 2 years.
10 Aug 2009 | 16.19 Europe/London