Ofcom Investigations into PLT related cases and outcomes

Mark Salter made this Freedom of Information request to Office of Communications

This request has been closed to new correspondence. Contact us if you think it should be reopened.

This request has been withdrawn by the person who made it. There may be an explanation in the correspondence below.

Dear Sir

Due to the significant radio spectrum pollution already causing problems
both in the UK and overseas could Ofcom please respond expeditiously and
in full to the following questions concerning their Power Line
Technology (PLT) cases.

Please supply full and complete details and documentation of the
following (redacted as required by Data Protection Act. Where reaction
is appropriate please state the reason in each and every case).

1. A list of all interference and spectrum abuse complaints pertaining
to PLT, with the date of each complaint.

2. Precise details of the radio spectrum affected, as reported by each

3. Precise details of the make(s) and model(s) of PLT equipment as
determined from each complaint. In cases where more than one source of
interference was identified, please include this information for each

4. For each complaint which was determined to have multiple PLT sources,
please state the total number of sources identified during the
investigation. Please also state whether all identified sources were
resolved or whether the case was arbitrarily closed by Ofcom having
fulfilled Ofcom’s minimum criteria for degradation to the complainant’s

5. Precise details of the radio spectrum range used by the PLT equipment
known to Ofcom. Where this is not known, please state the reason this
detail was not determined.

6. Details of all PLT complaints where Ofcom has closed the case but was
unable to resolve the interference problem. Please include the number of
cases which fall into this category, a synopsis of the reason each case
was irresolvable and the date the case was closed.

Please note, where requests reference documentation, responses should
include all information held by Ofcom in any media or document type
including but not limited to e-mail exchanges and telephone notes.


Mark Salter

Information Requests, Office of Communications

Dear Mr Salter

Thank you for your request for information asking about PLT investigations. Your request was received on 16th December 2010.

Generally any information provided will consist of copies of original documents in paper or electronic format.

Where we hold the information you have requested we will endeavour to answer your request in full and within 20 working days. If we are unable to provide the information requested, we will explain why the information has not been provided.

If you have any queries then please contact [Ofcom request email]. Please remember to quote the reference number 1-164073476 in any future communications.

Kind regards

Richard Neudegg
Information Requests

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Information Requests, Office of Communications

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Salter

In response to your information request, please see the attached correspondence.

Kind regards

Richard Neudegg
Information Requests

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Dear Office of Communications,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Office of Communications's handling of my FOI request 'Ofcom Investigations into PLT related cases and outcomes'.

The cost of reviewing the case notes is considered to be too high to fall within the remit of the FOI act.

These records should of course be held in electronic to allow analysis and tracking of performance of Ofcom and of the various suppliers involved. The fact that they appear to be paper based and unanalysable amazes me and must add to the cost of running the investigation team; since common causes and problematic suppliers or devices could only be noticed by the investigating person(s).

The lack of electronically stored information perhaps helps cause some of the current problems.

How are repeat offenders tracked for instance?

I would be happy to donate my own time to the this analysis and electronic capture of the alleged PLT cases, under a Non Disclosure Agreement if required and at the appropriate location to keep the organisations costs to a minimum.

The absense of electronic information, readily accesible and queryable is just unacceptable and is I think likely the reason that each case seems to be treated in isolation and money is being wasted through duplication of effort.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address:

Yours faithfully,

Mark Salter

Information Requests, Office of Communications

Dear Mr Salter

Freedom of Information: Internal review

Thank you for your email dated 8 January 2011 (see below) which Ofcom received on 10 January 2011, asking for a review of our decision in relation to your request for information.

The review will be conducted under the supervision of the Secretary to the Corporation. While there is no statutory deadline for completing internal reviews, we aim to respond within 20 working days. Please contact me at [Ofcom request email] if you have any queries, remembering to quote the reference number 1-165079451.

Yours sincerely

:: Eleanor Berg
Information Requests
[Ofcom request email]

:: Ofcom
Riverside House
2a Southwark Bridge Road
London SE1 9HA
020 7981 3000

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Mark Salter left an annotation ()

The section "Part 1. Records Management" of this document :-


feels particularly relevant in justifying my request for a review.

I have to admit that I had assumed that the details requested would be gathered as part of the investigation as a minimum level.

To not capture information that could be used in determining common cause across cases and failing to hold/maintain it in a manner fit for analysis appears contrary to this Code or Practice.

Mark Salter

Graham Howell, Office of Communications

Dear Mr. Salter,

Thank you for your letter requesting an Internal Review of your Freedom of Information Act request for information on PLT devices.

I have undertaken the review. I have specifically focussed on your questions 1,4,5 and 6 from your original request.

Ofcom does maintain electronic records for all PLT complaints; however the detailed information you seek is not accessible unless the data on each complaint is examined. I have searched for the information you have requested and can confirm that I would need to look at each file to gather the information. As a result the original notice to you that the search would take in excess of 18 hours does mean that the request falls under Section 12 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 which provides that a public authority is not obliged to comply with a request for information if the authority estimates that the cost of complying with the request would exceed the “appropriate limit”. The appropriate limit is set out in the Freedom of Information and Data Protection (Appropriate Limit and Fees) Regulations 2004, and is, for Ofcom, £450. As indicated to you that sum is intended to cover the estimated costs involved in determining whether Ofcom holds the information requested, identifying, locating, retrieving and extracting the information from any document containing it. The Regulations provide that costs are to be estimated at a rate of £25 per person per hour. We have, as we told you, records of 265 complaints since July 2008 where the alleged source was PLT. A colleague would have to be tasked with examining each case and the data would then have to be collated and redacted. I confirm that we estimate that this would take in excess of 18 hours to complete and as such the cost of complying with this question will exceed the appropriate limit.

I confirm therefore that Ofcom will not be able to provide any information to you. I therefore , having reviewed the request, have upheld Ofcom's position. However, as noted earlier, if you wish to submit an alternative request with a narrower, more specific scope in relation to this subject, Ofcom would be happy to give it our full consideration.

If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review, you have the right to apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at:

Information Commissioner’s Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane

If you have any queries or would like to discuss this informally then please contact Information Requests (email: [Ofcom request email]). Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future communications.

Yours sincerely,

Graham Howell
Secretary to the Corporation'


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Dear Graham Howell,

thank you for performing this review. I must say I am a little disappointed in the outcome, but do understand the position reached.

I personally believe that the data I have requested should be readily accessible and available to Ofcom during their day to day investigations and activities. If determining the history of the performance of any device, manufacturer or notified body relies on time to manually find / recall then the effectiveness of dealing with repeat or related cases must surely suffer.

In order to best make and for you to facilitate a narrower or more limited request, may I please check if :-

You would like me to raise a new request, or refine the criteria here?

If I can narrow my criteria in this reply then please :-

Provide the requested information from as many cases - in reverse chronological order working back from the 31st January 2011 - that can accommodated within the cost limit of a freedom of information request.

I appreciate the number of cases is therefore not known in advance, but I accept and acknowledge this risk.

To help understand the future response, can you please also include details of the hours to complete the following tasks :-

1. Manually retrieving the requested case data from the paper documents.
2. Redaction of gathered information
3. Composing and collating the future response.

If this is not possible within an FOI, then please provide the guideline figures or documentation used to estimate how long the data extraction for each case would take.

Yours sincerely,

Mark Salter

Dear Office of Communications,

Please accept my apologies for incorrectly referencing "paper documents" in my reduced scope request.

Having reread your response this evening I can see that the case details *are* kept electronically, but perhaps as images/scans of a paper document and not in a readily indexed and queryable form.

In trying to comprehend why the data would take time to extract and seeing the word "file" in the statement :-

"I would need to look at each file to gather the information"

I incorrectly assumed paper records were involved.

Therefore along with my apologies, please consider the item one :-

1. Manually retrieving the requested case data from the paper documents.

to be revised to:-

1. Manually retrieving the requested case data from the case files.

Thank you

Mark Salter

Dear Graham Howell,

I have not had any confirmation back on my question on where to revise and reduce the scope of my request.

Please can you confirm it has been amended or let me know if a new request needs to be raised?

Yours sincerely,

Mark Salter

Dear Graham Howell,

I will give up waiting for a reply and I will raise a refined request instead of trying to revise it here.

Yours sincerely,

Mark Salter

Dear Graham Howell,

I have raised a replacement for this request that includes what I hope is an acceptable way for the responding FOI officer to manage the cost of replying.

Yours sincerely,

Mark Salter

Mark Salter left an annotation ()

Well it didn't help them respond at all...


amazing and quite sickening!

However at least we know that the information is available, can be release and it is just a matter of *costs* alone that prevent Ofcom providing the detail....

... 8)