Recently we have seen BDUK announce the funding allocations to local authorities and the devolved assemblies, and the companies aiming hoping to get on the national framework have been short-listed. The sums awarded to councils were modelled by BDUK according to their understanding of need, and at the moment the framework companies are trying to develop a consistent understanding of what will be required of them and their shareholders should they be successful.

At stake is the investment of billions of pounds and public and private money, and the future competitiveness of the UK economy. Yet questions have been raise in several quarters for quite some time now about the accuracy of BDUKs data on which all this investment sits. So for the record I decided to correlate a source of data I have grown to trust – from Samknows who in turn get their DSL data from BT – against a set of BDUK data for the same area. The sample included a little over 19,000 postcodes.

BDUK Broadband Speed data

(click the graph to see a bigger version)

The plot shows BDUK speeds along the horizontal with BT speeds on the vertical, with each point representing a postcode average. If the two sets agreed the points should broadly align along the diagonal but its clear there is a limited correlation between the two sets.

This data is for Oxfordshire, so the first location I checked was my own postcode. BDUK suggests that I should get 13971.456kbps while BT suggests I get 6Mbps with ADSL2+. With an ordinary ISP I do in fact get 6 Mbps (Be There uniquely allow me to tune the connection so I get a shade more).

In fact on 76% of occasions the BDUK data offers faster speeds than BT’s reported data, and on average 52% faster.

When focussing in on just the 2 Mbps Universal Service Commitment, relying on BDUK data would result in about 900 postcodes having a problem addressed which doesn’t exist, yet almost 40% of the areas which do suffer broadband at less than 2 Mbps would have been missed altogether.

In 63 cases the discrepancy was more than 22 Mbps – or rather BDUK expected people to receive what they now consider “superfast broadband” when in fact no broadband was available at all.

From what I understand none of the usual sources relied on by the industry provided BDUK with this data and that the speeds are reported to thousandths of a kilobit suggests Excel may have been involved somewhere along the line rather than empirical data.

This information was provided to BDUK but they were largely unconcerned about the discrepancy at the time.

I’ll allow you to come to your own conclusions about the impact this might have had on the decisions BDUK is making and the fairness of funding allocations. For organisations seeking to be part of the framework, this data appears to be having a continuing impact.

NOTE: This is one of a number of blog articles which had gone unpublished for some time, occasionally dusted off and updated but left on the spike. For much of BDUK’s existence I have been supportive, and after it became clear that they were ignoring offers of help and advice from many of the people I know I had remained reluctant to be openly dismissive. But as the programme evolved it has become harder and harder to be supportive, there became fewer and fewer good news stories to write about, and my own postings became less frequent and rarely positive good news stories.

I’m publishing this now to draw a line under the whole process – time to get on with projects that make a difference in reality.

  1. Gsmall1961 says:

    JFDI is good but I do note an unnerving gung-ho attitude in getting the infrastructure deployed any old how. I have heard talk of cables draped over trees, over walls and through becks. While fibre is pretty resilient (better tensile – longitudinal – strength than steel) it just doesn’t like shear forces and tends to break. It is also sensitive to bends where attenuation can shoot up. While a great medium don’t overestimate its mechanical resilience. Plan the job well and protect your fibre and you will have an asset with a long life. Plan badly and you will have a lot of disappointed subscribers and BT will have more ammo with which to attack the community JDIers!

    • Adrian Wooster says:

      When someone is considering laying their own fibre, one thing I always remind them is that many people move house every five years or so but a fibre will still be there in 20 year or more. The decisions made today will impact the next three or four owners of their house.

      In that time its quite possible that the community may decide they no longer want the day to day involvement in their infrastructure and may prefer to sell it as the market consolidates, which it inevitably will, but an ill thought out network will have minimal, if any, value – exiting may be near to impossible.

      That’s not to say “don’t do it” – far from it – but to make sure the project is thought through so the future generations can feel proud rather lumbered.

      • L Annison says:

        I have similar data for Cumbria that shows glaring inaccuracies at ground level. It is of concern that money is being sliced and diced without accurate data, but as you say, time to draw a line under it all and get on with projects that do make a real difference to the places we live.

        As one of those who may have exhibited a gungho attitude to JFDI FTTH in the past, I’m pleased to say that there is now a growing indication that industry has realised that there is huge value in local knowledge, just as communities have learned we cannot JFDI without that vital technical knowledge.

        So, let’s do it once and do it right, in partnership and a spirit of co-operation that brings a slice of the pie to all involved.

  2. Somerset says:

    In a JFDI community solution who is responsible for the end-to-end support and maintenance? If a cable is damaged or kit stops working there must be a fast response to faults. Or does it rely on the ‘community’ to find a digger and operator etc.?

    As Adrian says in 5 years when the local people have lost interest what happens? What company will take on responsibility for cables 3″ under a lawn?

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