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'Geeky' Brits to thank for better broadband

Friday, October 24th 2014 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

‘Sophisticated’ consumers have helped improve the UK broadband market by pushing to be better informed, the CEO of SamKnows has said.

Alex Salter (pictured) told Cable.co.uk that people’s willingness to volunteer for “geeky” projects sets the UK apart from other countries.

SamKnows measures the speed and quality of broadband in properties using devices that users plug directly into their router.

“We provide the data to inform the conversation, to fuel the debate,” said Mr Salter.

“Before SamKnows there were a lot of people saying ‘broadband is slow’ and not really being able to make that argument with conviction against the ISPs who were sat on a huge amount of data.

“There is a constant of a company coming along whose heart is in the right place wanting to accurately measure internet performance and to provide that data to consumers and to ISPs and to government – I think that’s really benefited that conversation.

“Ofcom has also played an enormous part in that and they are a very good example of a light-touch regulator that has promoted competition in the market place by using this data in a certain way.

“As a result of this we have seen a massive investment in UK infrastructure over the period that SamKnows has been working with Ofcom.

“Having an independent data source is useful but Ofcom has really made very good use of that data.

“Let’s not forget the consumers push for this stuff and the UK consumer is sophisticated.

“ISPs are struggling with some really huge technical challenges – how can you stay ahead of these enormous capacity demands?

“Those guys are working hard to do that and that comes at enormous expense.

“There are a lot of significant forces at play here. Everyone is contributing and I absolutely think things have gotten better – in fact I know they have.”

Mr Salter said SamKnows started life as a “hacked together, geeky project” and there was surprise at the amount of people willing to participate.

“We thought ‘no-one else is going to be interested in this’ and then we were genuinely astonished when the register picked up on it and loads of people started contacted us saying ‘how can we join in on this?’.

“It’s been like that ever since, and I think that people like opportunities to participate in projects like this in the UK.

“There are certain countries where people are less likely to volunteer but the UK is definitely up there – people are willing.”

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