In my first post in far too long, I wanted to look at maps and broadband, more specifically the coverage maps many local authorities and assemblies are publishing in the UK relating to their broadband programmes.
Its a welcome move that some are now publishing maps and deeply frustrating that some are holding out when its clear that no local authority has found itself in court for releasing information about their publicly funded programme.
The inset map is my trawl of local websites for maps of local plans as of 7 February 2014. Some of the red areas have not published a map at all while others have published maps that are of little value to investors. (And its possible I’ve missed some so please let me know)
There is a simple message to those that aren’t publishing maps: The telecoms market considers that you are closed to investment!
And to those that are publishing maps I ask them to consider who the maps is intended for.
In my mind there are two key audiences:
- Homes and business in your patch that will be affected one way or another by your plans, and
- The telecoms industry who may be considering an investment in your area.
Some of the maps are helpful to local people but only a few are useful to the industry without quite a lot of work. For an operator to see whether there is any realistic opportunity to investment in your area, they will need to:
- Scan your map into a GIS tool,
- Overlay postcode data
- Attempt to extract the colour under each postcode then
- Determine what that colour means – is it in a build phase or is it an opportunity?
- Review the table of data that it produces to see whether there are useful opportunities
And they need to do this for every area they are considering investing their own funds in, and need to retrace all the steps every time the map changes. Not every operator has the skills to do this, and many more will struggle to justify this on any scale.
For flash maps that require the user to click on an exchange area and to accept the caveats before seeing a small fragment of map, its virtually impossible – these maps look pretty but are virtually useless to the industry. (See North Yorkshire or Oxfordshire for examples).
(The similarity of these maps suggests a single hand behind the design – a cynic might say that they serve their purpose rather well in that case)
So I’d encourage every area to publish a map, and please make it clear and of sufficient quality that someone could consider whether there are investment opportunities.
Better still, make it easy to be considered for investment – offer the industry a spreadsheet they can download!
UPDATE: Trefor Davies makes a similar point in his blog published on 8 February
UPDATE: I decided not to update the map to include the recently published Cumbria map. The map is low resolution and doesn’t align with the Cumbria county boundary so any analysis is unlikely to be something I’d want to rely on. 12 March