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West Somerset Tops New Index of Broadband Digital Deprivation

Wednesday, January 20th, 2016 (1:26 pm) - Score 1,471

Point Topic has updated their Digital Deprivation Index that attempts to identify which parts of the UK are most likely to struggle with the take-up of superfast broadband (30Mbps+) services, often due to issues such as low income or disability. Sadly West Somerset and Hull come top of the table.

The latest data claims that there remains a persistent and “in some respects deepeningDigital Divide across the United Kingdom, although it doesn’t always matter if you’re looking at a rural or urban area because the risk of Digital Deprivation can be found everywhere and tackling it remains very difficult.

Generally Income continues to be the “primary predictor of overall adoption” and the study warns that “forcing poorer populations onto relatively expensive, data limited broadband services will only entrench and extend existing divides.”

Point Topics Statement

Broadband non-adoption is common to urban and rural environments. There are many reasons but income, education and disability are the elements that have the most impact. Now we can figure out what impact they have and where we can start the next stage of broadband delivery for the UK and perhaps even extend our lead over our European partners.”

At this point we should say that rural areas often have to pay extra for their connections because it’s more expensive to cater for smaller communities and this can be reflected in service cost. For example, some LLU (unbundled) ISPs tend to charge a higher price if you aren’t covered by their network. Similarly those that reside outside of PlusNet’s low cost areas often pay significantly more and may also receive even slower speeds.

On the flip side there are some communities that have worked to roll-out their own superfast broadband services, but if these services are too expensive then those on lower incomes may yet struggle to benefit and be unable to afford the new connection. This can just as easily apply in urban areas, such as when lower incomes are a key factor.

The Most (On Average) at Risk Local Authorities

1. West Somerset
2. Hull (City)
3. East Lindsey
4. North Norfolk
5. King’s Lynn and West Norfolk
6. Fenland
7. Tendring
8. Torridge
9. Boston
10. Hastings

However Point Topic does note that there has been an improvement in most areas. In particular Cornwall and some of the South West coast appears to have improved overall, as do large chunks of the North West. Likewise it’s noted that Camden and much of South West London has improved significantly relative to other authorities.

Unfortunately Point Topic’s public summary only covers England and doesn’t offer a very detailed report, which makes it difficult to draw too many conclusions. However they have provided a colourful map of the hot spots for this problem, albeit ignoring Wales and Scotland etc.


Leave a Comment
12 Responses
  1. Avatar TheFacts

    Very iffy assumptions trying to relate to broadband.

    ‘where we can start the next stage of broadband delivery for the UK’ How does this link to current and future rollout?

    • Avatar GNewton

      @TheFacts: Your questions are very vague.

      In the cases of North Norfolk, and of Tendring, it is of no surprise here. It’s simply the lack of proper superfast broadband services, with large areas overlooked by BDUK, or the usage of wrong technologies, e.g. VDSL in rural Tendring.

  2. Avatar Henry

    If that map is about using broadband rather than availability, then I would have thought old age, as illustrated for example at http://www3.lancashire.gov.uk/corporate/web/dbimages/thumbnail.asp?id=41185 could be as significant as income

  3. Avatar gerarda

    The report notes “Forcing poorer populations onto relatively expensive, data limited broadband services will only entrench and extend existing divides.”

    That quote should be put on Ed Vaizey’s office wall and referred to every time someone suggests to him that satellite should be used as a fill in option

  4. Avatar TheFacts

    Surely this could apply to eg. car sales. In areas with poorer people, older people who may not see the need for broadband etc.

    The report does not use availability of broadband as one of its measures.

    • Avatar TheFacts

      Yes, I now see it is. What is the weighting given to broadband availability compared to factors like income etc.?

      Is the conclusion that poorer areas are less likely (higher ‘risk’) to buy broadband?

      West Somerset is highest in age ranking, 30th in housing, 12th in income, 42nd in education, maybe that explains something.

    • Avatar MikeW

      @TheFacts: “Is the conclusion that poorer areas are less likely (higher ‘risk’) to buy broadband?”

      I think so.

      If availability is one of the factors, but the main one is level of income, then any reduction in the “digital deprivation divide” is going to come from availability of the absolutely cheapest option. FTTC is much more likely to hit the nail on the head than FTTP.

      One of the standout features, to me, is the inclusion of Hull in the list of most deprived. It simultaneously has one of the highest proportions of FTTP, yet lowest proportions of “superfast” (it has neither FTTC nor Virgin cable).

      However, availability can’t be all of the story either. The whole of Cornwall remains coloured entirely as one of the “most at risk” categories – despite having the highest proportion of Openreach FTTP locations *and* having a fairly high proportion of the rest covered in FTTC.

      One of our most-rural counties – North Yorkshire – has a slightly lower percentage coverage of superfast speeds than Cornwall (83% in NY, 86% in Cornwall), yet manages to have half of its LA’s in the Green & Blue “least at risk” categories, and only 1 LA (of 8) in the “most at risk” category. That suggests availability doesn’t factor that highly.

      Looking deeper at North Yorkshire, I can see that two LA’s rated with Green “almost least at risk” (Craven and Selby) come out with superfast coverage of around 76% and sub-2Mbps coverage of 4%, while the one LA rated Red “most at risk” (Scarborough) has superfast coverage of 91% and sub-2Mbps coverage of 2%. These numbers suggest that availability barely factors in at all.

      Conversely, the two LA’s in the North Yorkshire area with the best rating – York itself, and Harrogate – are definitely the most affluent.

    • Avatar TheFacts

      They should have added distance to a Waitrose into the calculation.

    • If they were to do that it has to have a very high weighting indeed. Second only perhaps to distance from a full-on John Lewis department store.

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