Category Archives: North-Wales

Fieldwork in North-Wales

Last month we had a very productive week in North-Wales, talking to a variety of people who all struggled with slow and unreliable Internet access, both at home and at work. Of course the lack of fast Internet impacts differently on different people, but the main message is that it hinders people in achieving the things they need to accomplish on a daily basis. We found that a slow and unreliable connection can have serious implications not only financially, but also for health, social life, and family connections.

Twenty babies and toddlers are hiding under the parachute.

Twenty babies and toddlers are hiding under the parachute.

While we had a few interviewees lined up before we headed to Gwynedd, we still needed to find other people willing to talk to us. We used the snowball method, by which researchers find new participants through referrals from people they have already spoken to. But we also joined a baby and toddler singing group, where we met the parents and found some more willing respondents. We ended up humming along to Welsh children’s songs and waving a massive parachute. The things we do for our research!

During our fieldwork in N-Wales, the UK chancellor George Osborne came out with his Budget 2015 statement in which he pledged that Internet speeds of 100Mbps “should” be available to “nearly all homes” in the UK. In addition, the government’s digital communications infrastructure strategy has outlined an idea that will give customers the “right” to a broadband connection of at least 5Mbps in their homes at an affordable price. In reaction to this promise we wrote an article for The Conversation asking whether Osborne’s broadband promises will indeed bring about much needed change [spoiler:  5 Mbps is too little, too late].

This week the transcripts of our Welsh interviews have come back. This means that we can start analysing our data, compare it to our English data, and write up the results for academic publications. There are still some expert interviews to be conducted with FTTH advocates, representatives from local broadband providers, county councils, Ofcom, and other stakeholders to inform us on public policy and governmental interventions, but the bulk of the data has been collected. Newspaper and magazine articles, conference papers, and journal articles resulting from our research will always be uploaded to our project website, so do check regularly for the latest updates on our study!

North-Wales, here we come!

Only 2 more weeks until we will start our fieldwork in North-Wales. We are very excited about interviewing people in rural communities in Gwynedd. At the moment we are recruiting participants from Nant Peris and Mynydd Llandegai. We have been practicing our pronunciation and have our questions ready.

If you happen to live in the area around Llanberis, have very poor internet speeds (<2Mb/s), and are interested in taking part in our research do drop us a line. We will be residing in N-Wales from the 15th until the 21st of March. The interviews should not last longer than an hour and we are very flexible with our time (from early morning until late at night, at any location you prefer).

You can help us by mailing Anne-Marie at anne-marie.oostveen@oii.ox.ac.uk

Our Access Denied HQ

Our Welsh ‘Access Denied’ HQ

News Digest Rural Broadband: October 2014

This month saw a lot of reporting on inadequate internet speeds in rural communities throughout Great Britain. But the news items also show that alternative solutions do exist and provide hope for those who currently cope with slow and unreliable internet speeds.

29 october 2014 – Gigaclear activates rural Oxfordshire pure fibre broadband network
A new pure fibre optic broadband network is bringing ultrafast internet speeds to hundreds of properties in rural Oxfordshire. Uptake of the service has been strong, with over 40 per cent of residents pre-signing – a record for Gigaclear. Read more… 


29 october 2014 – Villagers clubbing together to bring superfast broadband to their homes
Neighbours are clubbing together to get superfast broadband because BT would not connect up more than 300 homes in Chalford and Bussage. Read more…


 28 october 2014 – Ireland’s future rural broadband speeds may leave Europe in the dust
Top telcos’ technical response to the Irish Government’s National Broadband Plan reveals an ambition to surpass proposed EU speeds, and even reach up to 2.5Gbps in rural areas in the coming years. Read more…


28 october 2014 – Here’s A Map Of Where People Struggle To Watch YouTube Videos
Despite living in an age where you can pay for a baguette with your iPhone, some people in the UK remain in “broadband blackspots” where even watching a YouTube video might be a struggle. While the average Internet speed in the UK is 17.8 Mbsp, many parts of the country suffer from speeds as slow as 4 Mbps to nothing at all. Read more…


25 october 2014 – Church tower project provides rural broadband boost for villages around Framlingham
Although the service does not meet the Government’s 24Mbps download target – which it wants to extend to 95% of the population by 2017 – Mr Leigh argues that speed is not decisive, but that what matters is a stable network with low contention ratios – potential maximum demand measured against actual bandwidth. Read more…


24 october 2014 – Rural broadband: Small providers offer best ‘bang out of your public sector buck’
Independent broadband network providers may be competitors but they are united by an aim to enhance the UK’s infrastructure, the head of a cooperative association has said. Malcolm Corbett, chief executive of the Independent Networks Co-operative Association (INCA), said smaller providers are providing solutions to get fibre to difficult-to-reach areas, and so helping to provide the biggest “bang out of your public sector buck”. Read more…


20 october 2014 – Outside the cities and towns, rural Britain’s internet is firmly stuck in the 20th century
The quality of rural internet access in the UK, or lack of it, has long been a bone of contention. The government says “fast, reliable broadband” is essential, but the disparity between urban and rural areas is large and growing, with slow and patchy connections common outside towns and cities. Read more…


16 october 2014 – Internet should be ‘for everybody’ says rural broadband boss
The head of the only rural broadband altnet to secure both public funding and government grant support has discussed how the internet should be “for everybody” – not just those in high infrastructure urban areas. Read more…


14 october 2014 – Rural broadband: Microwave radio link brings fast connection to remote village
A village on the edge of Dartmoor will be one of the first places in the UK to benefit from a new way to get superfast broadband to challenging areas. Households and businesses in the historic village Northlew can now access broadband services at speeds of up to 80Mbps — thanks to a four kilometre microwave radio link, which has replaced the need for a fibre optic cable. According to BT, more than 120 customers — about half of the households and businesses in the village — are already using the technology. Read more…


11 october 2014 – Rural Scotland to lead with ‘white space’ internet
Research at a Scottish university could pave the way for a new “white space” communication network offering improved services to the remotest parts of the country. The University of Strathclyde is overseeing projects to run wireless internet technologies on ferry services and trials of “smart city” technology. It is expected rural communities may be able to use the “white space” to connect to faster broadband speeds. Currently, rural Scotland has far slower speeds than the rest of the UK. Read more…


8 october 2014 – Shropshire and Marches Campaign Gives up Hope of Better Broadband
The Shropshire and Marches Campaign for Better Rural Broadband has announced its withdrawal from the local county broadband partnership, with concerns over attendance, confidentiality clauses, pre-set agendas and politics allegedly hampering their ability to propose and devise new ways of match funding with the Government’s £11.38m Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) grant. Read more…


6 october 2014 – Urban/rural broadband speeds gap ‘narrowing in UK’
The gap between broadband speeds in urban and rural parts of the UK appears to be narrowing, based on the latest figures from Ofcom. According to the media regulator, broadband users in the countryside saw a bigger increase in average speeds in the six months to May 2014 than those living in towns and cities. The average rural connection was capable of delivering 13.6Mb – up by 20 per cent on last November. Read more…


3 october 2014 – UK cable broadband internet speeds ‘faster than fibre’
Internet connections in cable broadband homes are faster on average than those using fibre, Ofcom research suggests. Average cable speeds were measured at 43.3 megabits per second (Mbps), compared with 42 Mbps for fibre. The most common type of broadband ran at 7.4 Mbps, however, and Ofcom found a big difference remained in the average speeds in cities and rural areas. Note: FTTH connections did not feature in Ofcom figures. Read more…


2 october 2014 – Pupils in rural schools in Essex at a disadvantage due to poor internet connections
Pupils are missing out on education opportunities due to poor internet connections in school – and rural Essex has been identified as one of worst regions. Half of pupils in UK state schools have slow broadband or unreliable Wi-Fi, according to a British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA) report. Read more…


 

News Digest Rural Broadband: August 2014

It has been a slow month for news on slow internet connections. But we have still managed to collect a few articles related to rural broadband.

28 August – Rural broadband: still life on a branch line
The UK now boasts some of the best average broadband speeds in Europe, but this still leaves a large number of businesses in the slow lane. Read more…


27 August – Fibre broadband arrives in Isle of Wight’s rural communities
Residents in rural parts of the Isle of Wight will now be able to connect to fibre broadband. The first cabinet to be ‘switched on’ as part of the Isle of Wight’s multi-million pound rural broadband project is now serving 240 homes and businesses in Shorwell. Read more…

See also: http://onthewight.com/2014/08/27/first-rural-broadband-cabinet-goes-live-today/


21 August – Is FTTC enough for the UK’s future superfast broadband needs?
The short answer is not with current technology. However there is a lot of research work going on to increase FTTC capacity. In contrast, FTTH networks obviously have the capacity to carry this growth in traffic now, providing comparatively unlimited bandwidth that scales for the future. In the US, Far East and other parts of Europe, more and more FTTH networks are being deployed, with a huge impact on the economy, public services and the daily lives of citizens. The risk is that many places in the UK will slip behind international competitors if they don’t have the networks in place to underpin growth. Read more…


15 August – Rural broadband reaches West Oxfordshire with a little help from the PM
The West Oxforshire parish missed out on nationwide broadband funding last year because of limited budgets. The community lobbied for two and a half years to secure funding from the state to help implement the new network. Speaking on behalf of the parish, local resident Graham Shelton told The Telegraph that this project would never have come to fruition without the Prime Minister. “None of it could have happened without his personal intervention, just at the moment when the project could have floundered,” he said. Read more…


12 August – Thousands of rural homes have access to faster broadband
Almost 22,000 homes have been given faster broadband access thanks to the Superfast Northamptonshire project, according to the county council. Fifteen roadside fibre broadband cabinets in these communities have just ‘gone live’. Read more…


8 August – One million UK properties on ‘superfast broadband’ after investment
The UK’s culture secretary has said that more than a million properties now have access to “superfast broadband speeds” as a result of a government-backed rollout of the tech. But many have questioned the quality of access and speeds advertised. The government has also set aside millions to improve broadband access in rural areas. But BDUK, the group set up to spend the £530m of government money for the rural internet initiative, has come in for criticism for delays in distributing funds to councils and for awarding every contract to BT. Read more…


7 August – Wales is ‘bridging the gap’ with superfast broadband coverage – but still lags rest of UK
Wales is catching up in the rollout of superfast broadband, new Ofcom research has revealed. But the research also shows that, despite the increase in the availability of new broadband services, the proportion of adults in Wales who had signed up to broadband (71%) was six percentage points lower than the UK average. And many small firms and rural residents reported problems with poor mobile phone coverage and unreliable internet. Read more…


News Digest Rural Broadband: June 2014

Here it is… June’s overview of all the need-to-know news on inadequate internet connections in rural England and Wales. Featuring this month: sluggish speeds, rural broadband nightmares, and balloons to the rescue.

26 June – Teesdale farmers’ broadband concerns raised in parliament
Although advances are being made with regard to the rollout of high-speed broadband to the more rural communities of the UK, farmers in the Teesdale area have been left frustrated by their lack of an adequate internet connection. Read more…


19 June – Broadband companies pocket £10m share to end rural web nightmare
If you live in a remote part of the UK where fibre is still something that’s listed on the front of a cereal box, listen up: the Government has announced the potential saviors to end your rural broadband nightmare. Read more…


18 June – Ofcom points out sluggish speeds and broadband divide in UK cities
Generally when we talk about the broadband divide, we’re talking about the have-nots out in rural or remote areas who are stuck on very slow connections, but the latest piece of Ofcom research has highlighted the disparity which can occur within cities themselves. Read more…


17 June – Google’s Project Loon edges closer to reality
Google officially announced its Project Loon balloons last June with the goal of bringing Internet access to every corner of the Earth. And now, with one year under its belt, the project has ironed out a lot of kinks, amped up balloon strength, and extended field-testing to places like Campo Maior. Read more…


16 June – 28% of rural UK population unhappy with broadband
In response to the activity regarding rural broadband schemes, satellite broadband provider Europasat have conducted research to find out the opinions of UK rural residents in regards to the state of the broadband they receive, how it affects their area, plus their opinion towards government schemes. Read more…


6 June – New high-speed satellite broadband will help bridge Scotland’s digital divide
Leading ISP Broadband Everywhere has launched a new high-speed satellite broadband service in Scotland to help bridge the digital divide between urban and rural communities. A range of packages with download speeds of up to 20Mbps will be available to anyone living in Scotland with costs starting from £13 a month.  Read more…


 

News Digest Rural Broadband: May 2014

Keeping abreast of developments related to rural broadband is difficult when you are suffering from slow Internet access. Therefore we do all the hard work for you and bring you our easy to digest monthly news overview.

28 May – UK broadband speeds impress Europe’s digital denizens
The UK has been praised for its digital advances and broadband network in the latest European Union 2014 digital scorecard. The annual scorecard creates a yardstick that the EU uses to measure local performance in a variety of areas. Read more…


20 May – Why is my Internet so slow?
A new report has revealed areas with the fastest and slowest broadband speeds. The figures are the result of nearly two million speed tests conducted by UK broadband users over six months. Read more…


19 May – BDUK Fibre Rollout Reaches 508,000 Properties
More than half a million homes and businesses can now receive superfast broadband as a result of the government-funded Broadband Delivery UK initiative. The rollout of fibre by BDUK projects has accelerated over the past 12 months. It is expected that there will be 40,000 new connections being completed each week by this summer. Read more…


16 May – Residents ‘didn’t realise’ how important broadband speed would be when they turned down cutting edge cables 20 years ago
Two decades ago, residents in Welshwood Park turned down the chance to have cables laid in the area to boost Internet speed. But now fresh efforts are being made by residents amid fears that low broadband speeds are affecting their property prices. Read more…


9 May – Broadband-speed inquiry into Welsh Government’s Superfast Cymru programme
An inquiry is under way by public spending watchdogs into the Welsh Government’s investment in super-fast broadband across Wales. North Wales AM Antoinette Sandbach urges people with issues about access to broadband to contact the audit office. “There are a lot of people who can’t access super-fast broadband, even though they are already in an area where it has been rolled out. It is really important that people share their experiences with the Wales Audit Office.” Read more…


6 May – Up to speed: Why poor Internet can be a matter of life and death
Llanberis Mountain Rescue Team depend on an internet connection to run systems which help to locate missing people, pass vital information between agencies, and call volunteers to a rescue. But problems with poor internet connection at the team’s Nant Peris base have frustrated volunteers, who can be called out to hundreds of incidents a year. Read more…


1 May – Up To Speed: AM reveals map of broadband black spots
An AM who started his own survey after receiving complaints about broadband speeds has produced a map showing North Wales’s hot and not-spots. Try the interactive map to see broadband speeds in your area (if your speed actually allows you to do this…). Read more…