EU seeks 1,500 Irish volunteers to help with broadband study

8 Dec 2011

The European Commission is seeking 1,500 volunteers in Ireland to help provide broadband performance benchmarks to help guide the commission’s €9bn investment in broadband technologies.

The major new study, which has received the backing of Neelie Kroes, the European Commissioner responsible for the Digital Agenda, seeks to confirm the real broadband speeds being delivered to consumers across all 27 EU member states, as well as Iceland, Norway and Croatia.

The results will help the EC direct more than €9bn investment in high-speed broadband across the area in support of the Digital Agenda and build a global standard in terms of the quality of service provided to consumers.

“Everyone in the EU should be able to enjoy the benefits of an open and lawful internet, without hidden restrictions or slower speeds than they have been promised,” Kroes explained.

“We need to collect first-hand information from European consumers on the actual quality of their broadband access. With that data, we can easily see which countries have been most successful and which countries are falling behind, enabling us to direct support and investment most appropriately.”

Ireland’s telecoms regulator ComReg is working with stakeholders to implement a consumer information initiative about broadband speeds that gives consumers information about experienced broadband speeds for each product. This will allow consumers to make informed assessments about the various broadband products available across a range of platforms.

Informing consumer choice

“ComReg believes that the availability of transparent and consumer friendly information about actual speeds experienced by consumers when using broadband is an important issue and would help to inform consumer choice,” ComReg spokesman Tom Butler explained.

The study aims to accurately measure broadband speeds by providing a panel of volunteers with a device that connects to their broadband connection to report measurements back to the trial organisers, specialist broadband measurement firm SamKnows. To provide a statistically representative sample, the study requires more than 100,000 volunteers, with at least 1,500 required in Ireland.

“SamKnows has worked with national bodies across Europe on similar broadband measurement projects. Our vision is to create a global standard for broadband performance measurement,” said Alex Salter, CEO of SamKnows.

“In Europe, we hope to build a strong, consumer advocacy panel to explore internet service issues over the long term. We hope that the potential to highlight the standard of broadband service they are receiving, as well as the potential to attract significant investment to improve their country’s infrastructure will motivate plenty of volunteers in Ireland to join the programme.”

The project has been specifically designed to provide a clear picture of the speeds and reliability of net services across all European member states, including Ireland. The EC, ISPs, regulators and consumers will have access to the results when they are completed.

To volunteer, broadband consumers in Ireland simply need to register online. Shortly afterwards they will be sent a small, purpose-built ‘Whitebox’ device that plugs into their internet connection. When residents are not using their broadband line, the Whitebox runs a series of automated tests to measure the speed and performance of the connection.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years