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Digital Exclusion map of the UK may mislead decision makers
Monday 19 October 2015 10:08:09 by Andrew Ferguson

The Big Data Society is brilliant and as guardians of the availability and coverage data checker that we run we worry about data that is even just a few weeks old, but the Go ON UK partnership while clearly not meaning to has used Ofcom data on 2 Mbps availability as one of the metrics in deciding which local authorities suffer the most Digital Exclusion.

The Go On UK system fed in an Ipsos Mori poll of 4,000 people across the UK and has combined this with the 2013 Ofcom data and other data sources to arrive at its conclusions. There are areas like Conwy which Ofcom in 2013 had on record as having 13.2% of premises not receiving 2 Mbps (3.3% superfast availability) and scroll on two years and the difference is massive with 1% not receiving 2 Mbps and superfast (30 Mbps or faster) available to 75.1% according to our own figures. What we don't know is what effect this will have on their overall heat map, but in the current environment where the UK is often portrayed as having an awful broadband picture using two year old data is not helping.

The effects of Digital Exclusion are very dramatic particularly with the race to low cost provision of many services by Government and commercial bodies so while we are grateful to Go ON UK for highlighting the problem we believe that much more recent data should have been used so that any decisions made by those with the power to help the digital excluded can with greater precision target limited resources.

The situation regarding coverage at under 2 Mbps is particularly important as we should very soon be told all about the USC scheme and we believe there are 58,161 postcodes representing around 420,000 premises and if you include the ability for alt-net broadband providers to provide better speeds this figure drops to around 370,000 premises (based on a data analysis from 17th October 2015.

Postcodes with under 2 Mbps broadband speeds - Oct 15
(click to view larger version)
Map of slowest broadband postcodes in the UK - Oct 15 (large image)
Four Nations Postcodes Likely to get broadband at speeds of 2 Mbps or slower
based on analysis from 17th October 2015

To help everyone see how things currently are, and we believe Northern Ireland is seeing more and more roll-out of FTTC with new sub cabinets and FTTP to improve the coverage there. The twenty worst constituencies for USC coverage are listed below.

The 20 constituencies with the worst coverage at 2 Mbps or slower as of 17th October 2015
Based on thinkbroadband calculation of Superfast and USC Broadband Coverage, check your area at
Area % Under 2 Mbps USC % Under 15 Mbps % superfast
30 Mbps or faster
West Tyrone 21.5% 38.6% 54.6%
Fermanagh and South Tyrone 20.9% 41.3% 51.7%
South Down 16.2% 39.2% 54.6%
Mid Ulster 15.6% 41% 52.2%
Newry and Armagh 14.2% 33.2% 59.6%
North Antrim 12.8% 32.6% 58.7%
Eastderry 10.5% 22.1% 72.4%
South Antrim 10.4% 22.6% 71.6%
Strangford 8.4% 21.6% 69.3%
Lagan Valley 8.2% 21.6% 75.9%
Thirsk and Malton 5.5% 23.6% 70.8%
North Cornwall 5.3 21.4% 74%
Richmond (Yorks) 5.3% 21.5% 73.4%
Torridge and West Devon 5.3% 35.2% 53.3%
West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine 5% 28.6% 60.1%
Dumfriesshire Clydesdale and Tweeddale 4.9% 36.6% 52.4%
Hexham 4.8% 22.8% 70.3%
Banff and Buchan 4.7% 26.7% 66%
East Antrim 4.6% 14.4% 78.7%
Upper Bann 4.4% 16.1% 77.8%

The above charts and data is to some extent already out of date, the roll-outs are seeing around 200-300 postcodes per week vanishing from the sub 2 Mbps chart. We will continue to chart the 2 Mbps fixed line figures even when the widely expected satellite voucher scheme launches as it is important to see how well the Openreach roll-out is doing. Northern Ireland dominates the worst 20 areas, but this is also the part of the UK where we are seeing the most infill type activity.


Posted by chilting about 1 year ago
Informing consumers that faster broadband is available to them should be one of the principal aims of Go On UK. If they cannot get this simple information over something is lacking.
Many people from our village simply don't realise that FTTC is available to them and are still struggling on very slow ADSL because we are so far from the exchange.
Posted by Olliesheldrick about 1 year ago
Hi Andrew, really interesting article, and thanks for showing interest in the Heatmap. We are aware that we are using slightly older data for our broadband measure, this is due to the change in how the data is now produced. However we are working hard to improve this, get the latest data available on the map, and include measures such as 4g coverage. The Heatmap is very much an 'MVP' that we think will continually improve.

Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi Chi.
I have noticed that in your area WC there are customers that are showing low speeds on Thinkbroadband maps and the post codes are next to the new FTTC this is happening across the UK so the 2meg could be a red herring. I have also noticed that the data has changed over the last ten days for the better effecting the 2 meg target.
Posted by cyberdoyle about 1 year ago
I agree it will mislead decision makers, because the areas classed as having 'superfast' show the entire area, whereas those on long lines will never get it. Yet they are classed as having access to it. It is all part of the digital britain superfarce. Statistics can be made to say anything. The fact remains that millions will not have a fit for purpose connection, and many will remain analogue until everyone does have a good connection. FTTC can never provide a good connection for everyone, nor can satellite or mobile. Time to get some fibre. Moral and optic.
Posted by cyberdoyle about 1 year ago
Every penny wasted on trying to get people online could be spent laying real fibre. If the network actually worked everywhere, then people would subscribe. As it is, its a lottery and lots can't be bothered even trying.
Posted by jabuzzard about 1 year ago
Sorry but how the hell did Hexham make the list? Sure it's the most rural constituency in England, but *ALL* the major population centres which account for the majority of the population are all FTTC enabled, with a whole bunch of the smaller places enabled as well. Also where the hell did the 0.1% cable coverage come for the constituency. I am not aware of even a single square millimetre of the constituency have cable!!!

All I can say is these figures need to be taken with a sack full of salt.
Posted by chilting about 1 year ago
The issue of consumers, especially older people, not realizing that FTTC is available to them is a very real one in our West Sussex village.
I would have thought that Go On UK could do more to promote the take up of FTTC as it becomes available.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
@jabuzzard Feel free to use to look for areas where we have missed out on live FTTC.

Remember FTTC != superfast availability due to distance from the cabinets. e.g. NE46 2PJ served cabinet 3 which is live but so far that even Openreach don't show FTTC for it.
Posted by rjohnloader about 1 year ago
Do aternatives to wires/fibre shw up? In our village we can now have 10, 20 or 30Mb/s via microwave but many have to wait ages to enjoy as their contracts with wire based ISPs (BT claim 1-3.5Mb.s) still ahve many months to run. Ofcom say that the fact that a compaetitor can offer 15 times the speed of your current ISP does nt count as bad service and hence cannot get out out of current contacts with 1 month notice. I though they wanted fast speeds to all as soon as possible.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
@rjohnloader On the maps where the lighter blue dots show is where an altnet provider we know about is available.

So depends on whether we know about that operator or not.
Posted by gerarda about 1 year ago
The map shows what a good job BT did in persuading the authorities to fund a technology that could not reach everywhere but would ensure the areas that were left were so fragmented than no viable commercial competition could arise from them
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi Gerarda and Others.
I hope you are recording your speed on Thinkbroadband map post code thus giving a blue dot if your speed is under the 2 meg because they are removed in the window days as each day passes. If the data is not correct money could be channeled to other projects.
Posted by jabuzzard about 1 year ago
I know FTTC does not necessarily mean superfast, but I find it incredibly hard to believe only 70% of the population of the Hexham constituency have access to superfast broadband.

Besides which you have cable down as serving 0.1% of the constituency. No idea what methodology you used for that, but it is flat out wrong. My guess is you are using postcodes and some of the postcodes in the far west of the constituency overlap with areas that have cable. Still wrong.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
@blackmamba Speed tests are NOT used to create the blue dots in these maps
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi Andrews staff.
If the customer does not have a speed above 5meg he will not be interested in using Broadband for domestic/ Business use so I feel that to highlight the low speeds on Thinkbroadband map will high light the problem. The BBC today did state the problems where broadband was failing (DFRA) and it was all low speeds. This group did attend the meeting at Dorking and did cascade the information. The failing is with the ISP,s not servicing their customers options.
Posted by gah789 about 1 year ago
I have little confidence in these figures. In a limited part of my constituency I think there are more postcodes where some people get ADSL speeds < 2 Mbps than the total for the whole constituency. On the other hand the database does not record wireless services where there is coverage & use. So, the ADSL situation is worse than claimed but the contribution of altnet providers may be rather better.
Posted by gah789 about 1 year ago
Small operators have better things to do than populate such databases. The Scottish OMR team asked for information on our coverage by postcode. We provided some basic information, which they refused to take into account on the grounds that we hadn't given all of the details they required. We don't have the resources to spend on answering questions that won't benefit our customers, so we gave up. Such experiences skew the information that is available. Surveys aren't any help because the sample size has to be vast to pick up small proportions or groups in very dispersed populations.
Posted by gah789 about 1 year ago
The reality is that no one has any (statistically) reliable data on the proportion - and location - of people who fall below the USC. Your figures may be better than many but the confidence intervals are large relative to the estimated proportion. The number is patently not zero but it might plausibly fall in a range from 2% to 10% for the UK as a whole. With such uncertainty any attempt to devise and implement a USC is likely to be based on foundations of sand.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
So gah789 where is this place with thousands of < 2Mbps postcodes? happy to check and correct if needed and wireless wise if they tell us it does get mentioned on our availability checker and we can work from an existing map if need be, e.g. Relish London coverage
Posted by Somerset about 1 year ago
@BM - 'If the data is not correct money could be channeled to other projects.' What do you mean?

'This group did attend the meeting' Which group?
Posted by chilting about 1 year ago
The people who really need very accurate figures about areas that are unable to get the USC are BDUK and the county councils. Maybe it is time for them to ask residents to contact them and register with them to create a digital exclusion data base. The resulting data base, that could be made public, would certainly give everyone an idea where to target resources.
Posted by gerarda about 1 year ago
I asked Ofcom in an FOI how they had arrived at their sub 2mbps percentage and whether this had ever been verified by surveying the residents where there was not or slow spots
The answer of course that their method was full of nonsense assumptions which a survey would have blown out of the water.
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi Somerset .
At Dorking meeting (250 persons) consisting of BT,SCC, and a rep for education and he was hoping to arrange for classes in IT at various places in Surrey to get people involved. At the end of the meeting questions were asked from the floor and a list of post codes were given to each person. Thus the position of the Cabs and the aprox service speeds. I had the opertunity to attended because I had regestered with Surrey. This is where 99.7% (15 meg) was quoted to me.
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi Chi.
Surrey (SCC) has requested customers to log there speeds and complaints via their web/page so they can find out which post codes (28000) are under the 15 meg target this is under the OMR, they will be able to spend the claw back money plus the money in pot after clearance from the EU. A meeting will take place between SCC and BT where they will spend the money in a cost effective way. I think the meeting will be in the new year.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
Or the council could contact thinkbroadband officially and enquire about what data might be available.
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi Andrews Staff.
As SCC had its own post codes database (28000) see above on the first day at Dorking for their 620 Cabs they were able to see which (post code customers) may not hit the 15 meg target all that was required was the Cab GPS position.
Once the FTTC BDUK was open all the customers requirement we're down to the ISP,s on that Cab. (BDUK had paid for 100 pair port slots only)
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
@Blackmamba So why are they asking customers, if they know all this already?

Where is this big request from Surrey for members of the public to log tests either? Announcing it to an audience in Dorking is hardly telling the whole of Surrey is it.
Posted by Somerset about 1 year ago
@BM - was this the 21 Feb 2013 meeting? No sign of logging speeds on the Surrey website.
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi Andrews Staff.
After the the Meeting SCC under Katie arranged for meetings at local parishes giving the same message to the local customers stating the Openreach Programe I attended only one at Churt but there were other locations attended that I know off Elstead , Dockenfield I would expect the same formate was used across Surrey. Any problem I had she always gave me a reply.
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi Somerset
A sample of Cabs Aprox 70 (BDUK and BT COM) there speeds were calculated from the CAB,s either under or over 15 Meg to the Post Codes on certain Exchanges areas urban, rural this was done independent of SCC this was in operation a week after the meeting at Dorking this method watched both SCC and BTOpenreach. It flagged up areas where gap funding may be required if the customers wished to be involved.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
@blackmamba Sampling 70 cabinets is NOT good enough to work out a county wide picture, you have to do every cabinet and exchange only area.
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi Andrews Staff and Others.
Most Exchange Only lines in Surrey ( which i think you stated was low) will cover the 15 meg target you have Cabs that are close to the exchanges that have not been provided with a New Cab fitted (yet ) all hitting the 15 meg. I did also list the Exchanges Under 3K customers and registered the number of cabs against a number for testing when the Cab was open for service (test daily.) remember I did service the thamesway area on fault preformance.
Posted by Somerset about 1 year ago
@BM - working for the Post Office 30 years ago is not relevant to the current network.
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi Somerset.
I never worked for the Post Office 30 years ago. I think the post office delivers letters and other services.
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