Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Correction - Poscodes will not be free

A case of the left and right hands not being connected.

This morning the BBC web site ran an article on the freeing up of the postcode dataset

"Currently organisations that want access to datasets that tie postcodes to physical locations cannot do so without incurring a charge.Following a brief consultation, the postcode information is set to be freed in April 2010.The announcement about releasing postcode data came as part of a much wider plan to use technology as part of the Smarter Government strategy. As part of this push, the government said it would start "consulting on making mapping and postcode datasets available for free reuse from April 2010.""

Within a couple of hours Giles Finnemore, the Head of Mrketing at the Address Management Unit of the Royal Mail sent an e-mail to all the current licensees of the PAF
Dear PAF(r) Customer

You may be aware of a story on the BBC website today that Government is planning to give anyone free access to postcode data.

Access to postcodes is already, and will continue to be, free to every citizen via www.royalmail.com/postcodes4free.

For the avoidance of doubt PAF(r), the Postcode Address File, remains the intellectual property of Royal Mail and is supplied and used under licence. The new and recently published licences come into effect from April 2010. There are no plans for that to change.

Maintaining a world class postal address file requires significant ongoing investment and it is right that organisations who obtain value from using the file pay to do so.

We are aware of no plans for Government to pay Royal Mail for businesses and organisations to use our address file.

Regards

Giles
Seems that Giles listening to Gordon. I wonder whether he got a call from the Cabinet Office today?

Someone is going to have to do some back pedalling here.

10/12/09 Some useful comments on the Free Our Data blog following up on this

2 comments:

Robert Whittaker said...

Both could be correct. The BBC article specifically says that it's the "postcode to geographic locations" that will be freed (known as PostZon by Royal Mail). This dataset is distinct from the PAF, and it's unfortunate that the BBC article then muddies the waters by referring to the PAF in the sentence directly afterwards.

I think I remember reading somewhere that the the geographic co-ordinates for each postcode are actually generated by the Ordnance Survey rather than Royal Mail, and the data is available from OS in their Code-Point product.

Given some of the other geographic data that's being opened up, I think it's reasonably likely that it's (part of) Code-Point that's being talked about here. (See also the reference to OS in the BBC article.)

Bob Barr said...

I'm with Steven on this one, right hands don't know what left hands are doing. Royal Mail sell the Postzon file:

http://www.royalmail.com/portal/rm/content1?mediaId=55900705&catId=400088

even though they source the grid references from OS under the Gridlink initiative.

http://www.ons.gov.uk/about-statistics/geography/policy/gridlink-/index.html

Gridlink is an arrangement, indistunigishable from a cartel, whereby OS, Royal Mail and ONS arrange what to charge for postcodes and any of the files that would allow the sort of linkege that Gordon Brown heard Sir Tim and Nigel Shadbolt announce.

ONS have fallen into bad company here because they don't normally charge for any of their data products.

If Gordon Brown is serious about his announcement he needs to tell Giles Finnemore that time has run out on the "for the time being" ownership of PAF that Royal Mail were given under the Postal Services Act and that Parliament is going to take PAF back.

Postcode "boundaries" are another can of worms as no definitive boundaries exist. Codepoint with polygons and Geoplan (who have an official relationship with Royal Mail) are approximations, but do not determine what postcodes will fall within them. Anyone using boundaries to link data needs to understand the implications of this.

Bob