Broadband Demand Report – Results unburied

Remember that? Probably not. Way back in January 2006 the Government decided to have a consultation about how to stimulate demand for broadband in Ireland. They got a lot of reponses, nearly all of which (except eircom and Forfas) said the biggest issue was supply not demand. A report was written as a result of all the feedback on methods to increase usage of broadband in Ireland. It appeared to have just been buried. Well until now. Broadband Demand conclusions come on down!

Photo owned by johnthescone (cc)

I sent in the following Freedom of Information request in January of this year:

A digital copy of all consultation responses, drafts and the final version of the Broadband Demand Report. I believe this report/consultation happened around January 2006

Last week the Department of Communications uploaded the digital versions of the documents I received to their website. Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6

It’s all rather boring really until you get to the report that was generated from all the suggestions. The FOI request showed me the three versions of the final report which itself was not made public. Amazing to see how the civil service works and watching as the initial draft get severely butchered as it probably went up the chain of command and became rather tame. Part 6. A 19 page document got turned into a 16 page document and then got turned into a 12 page document (Page 81)and on the way suggestions from the Department were removed. But even with that final report, it never actually got published after all the people sending in their views and it all being sifted through. What a horrible waste.

The overall conclusion of this report was: Stimulating demand is not a concern at present and it’s still not.

Where did the Murphy’s go?
The draft versions of the report on the conclusions saw the report split into two parts, stimulating demand and tackling availability/infrastructure issues. In the cleaned report (page 81) they turn from “suggestions” into “summaries”. It is obvious in the drafts that the Department have come up with their own constructive suggestions on demand and availability but further along the line they seemed to have been disappeared. Shame. But it at least shows that like every org they are some great minds and constructive suggestions being worked on but politics comes into play.

BT Ireland and eircom had massively different data on line failure rates which was mentioned in one draft:

BT in their submission, claim that up to 62% of FRIACO lines they surveyed (a sample of 4,300) failed the line test for broadband. Eircom state the figure is 10%. The truth is probably somewhere in between and it would prove a worthy exercise for the Department to ascertain the real truth, if only to counter the spin Eircom put on the figures in the national media.

The clean report turns this into:

BT reported that a high share of FRIACO lines failed the line test for broadband. However, in relation to coverage issue, Eircom stated that by “March 2006, 85%+ of telephone customers will be connected to DSL enabled exchanges”

Nowhere does it mention that this is just fiddling with numbers but it is warned about in the two drafts:

The wording of this is very careful. They are not saying that 85% of customers can get DSL, they are saying 85% of customer lines are attached to a DSL enabled exchange. This brings the numbers of the population down from the 67% of the country who have a land line, down to 56.95% who have a landline attached to an exchange.

Eircom claim there is only a 10% failure rate on lines, which brings to sum down to 51.26% of the population who have a land line, attached to an enabled exchange, with no failure problems. … and is assuming you accept Eircom’s word

And the Murphys:
A suggestion was made to pick out the first 100 Murphys in each area code and put their number into the eircom line checker and see what the %s would be. It never made it into the “clean” report. Neither did lots of other very good suggestions probably because it would have added more reality to the situation the Department had been preaching up until then.

There are dozens of other great suggestions in those draft reports. They’re worth checking out. I still think the Murphy’s idea is great and maybe someone should try it out and see what the line failure rates are.

10 Responses to “Broadband Demand Report – Results unburied”

  1. jazz biscuit says:

    Very interesting stuff. Good work. The Murphys suggestion is a really good one.

  2. tipster says:

    I’m being lazy here, in that I haven’t checked the documents you’ve linked, but…

    I wonder to what extent the proposals and ideas got watered down inside the department and outside it. In particular, were there discussions — formal or informal — with Dept Finance that made clear that funding would not be forthcoming for certain ideas or proposals?

    (And the Murphy check might be fine at the moment, but I could see it becoming a problem in the future if we continue to see immigrants over-represented in certain areas and absent in others. A test like that could contribute to growing inequality. And leaving aside an “official” groups like those named in the equality legislation, I recall a few years ago on the broadband issue seeing an article in a west Dublin paper reporting that the first broadband yokies (I suppose they might be trunk lines) did not run through or near North Clondalkin, but did cover their richer neighbours nearer Newlands Cross.)

  3. Damien says:

    The Murphy suggestion has nothing to do with ethnicity, it’s about randomly selecting nmbers from a phonebook to check does their line pass the broadband test. The same thing could have been done by going to page 41 of a phonebook and picking the first 30 numbers.

  4. Cian says:

    Damien, not sure if I have said it in the past, but you’ve done some great work with this and other FOI requests. Keep it up.

  5. tipster says:

    The Murphy suggestion has nothing to do with ethnicity, it’s about randomly selecting numbers from a phonebook to check does their line pass the broadband test.

    I am saying that that particular form of random in not neutral and can hide patterns of access (and lack of same) that reflect significant inequalities. In particular, the use of names has ethnicity links, and geographical area has socia-econonic links (although I don’t know to what extent that would apply at the top-level area codes like 01 or 021). This gets, to my mind, to be serious, if we get to a stage where some large percentage of the territory of the state is covered, and that aspect alone is trumpeted by the Department of Whatever Ryan is Minister For as “success”.

    (It’s like the problem in the last development plan where D Transport asserted that a priority of road investment was gender neutral. It wasn’t: a lower proportion of women than men (especially as one goes up the age categories) use roads regularly.

  6. Rahood says:
    Eircom 2008 01 Phonebook
    Page 41 Blackwell-Blood
    4th Column on the right
    Lucan 628#### Failed
    Mountmerrion 210#### Failed
    Dublin 24 451#### Failed

    Stopped at this point as something must be wrong.
    View Source …come to daddy src=”
    Where are they pulling their info from ??? and is it really from 2004 !!
    Switched to using Eircom ..sessionid timeout WTF’
    Switched to using BT’s line checker

    Eircom 2008 01 Phonebook
    Page 41 Blackwell-Blood
    4th Column on the Right
    Lucan 628#### PASS
    Mountmerrion 210#### PASS
    Dublin 24 451#### PASS

    Forget ‘Murphy’ try All you need is one person to do each area.
    Nobber Kells 046-9052182…PASS
    Just a shame it’s only open for a couple of hours Mon-Fri. *wink*
    Smithboro Monaghan 047-57002…FAIL
    Woops and there was me thinking that all the stations were connected to some sort of Criminal Data Base. What was that thing called again and just how much did/is it costing us ?

    I was going to go through all the names on page 41 but I dropped the phonebook and it opened on the State Directory Section and using Garda Stations or maybe Post Offices will negate any bias

  7. Evert Bopp says:

    Thanks for doing a load of groundwork for those of us who are too lazy.
    Shame to see that all this time, money and effort has led to nothing new really…

  8. barry says:

    Great stuff Damien, another piece of the jigsaw, but we need to try to get a complete(r) picture. This piece of work shows that the Dept/ComReg are only out to ‘prove’ that everything is OK, which is, from anecdotal data, not true. If we can get more accurate data, then we will be in a better position to argue the situation. Still awaiting the revival of IOffL…..

    Bye, Barry

  9. barry says:

    Damien, can you provide a (rough) timeline for all this? It isn’t obvious from the 6 parts what the sequence is/was. Thanks