Friday, 27 September 2013

Broadband Reality of Rural Life

A lot of businesses involved with British wool are located in the countryside and rely on the internet for running the business.  Many more 'growers' of British wool, our sheep farmers, are rural and need good internet for the daily business of running a farm.  Yes, I've realised how much paperwork is involved and how much of this is able to be done on line IF you have good enough broadband.

There are still areas of the country of course that don't have any broadband - they rely on dial up connections.  The Government is planning to address this, but it seems there are issues.  This is an article from Rural Mole on the subject.

This is my bit of rural - the valley in Orkney where I live and farm now.  More fields and moorland than houses.  When I lived in central Newcastle upon Tyne we had cable broadband and got 20Mb/s, which was pretty reliable.  When it did go pear-shaped because the provider had sold more capacity in the area than was available the community complained en-masse and more capacity was provided.  Power in numbers!

Now we have a BT broadband connection with our contract specifying 'up to' 10Mb/s.  No doubt our valley is on the list of rural areas that have great, fast broadband of 'up to' 10Mb/s.  The key there is the 'up to'.  The reality is that the greatest speed we have ever received is LESS than 2Mb/s.  The usual maximum is 1.6Mb/s.

So, with the advantage that I can recall life with reliable, 24 hour, 20Mb/s, how does life compare with 1.6Mb/s?
Well, I can't read The Orcadian on-line  easily.  I can get a page to come up quickly, but enlarging it enough to read means sitting at the laptop waiting, or going away to do something else for 2-3 minutes.  That's for every single page turn. means waiting for images to load - a tedious waste of time.

Uploading information to the blog or website is also a hugely slower process than it used to be - some people with businesses need to regularly upload lots of images to their websites and for them, time is money.

But the situation is actually much worse than this.  During most evenings and weekends, and sometimes during the day the speed drops off to less than 0.7Mb/s, sometimes down to this (yesterday evening)

What does less than 0.7Mb/s mean?
Well I can't do internet banking, emails won't load, most websites time out, and even speedtest times out so our speed record excludes everything below that speed.

In other words we're cut off from the basic necessities of 21st century life - but don't forget, our area will be listed as a BT success of a rural area getting 'up to' 10Mb/s.

So, in all the discussions about bringing broadband to those areas that don't yet have it - and that MUST be a priority for the Government - remember that even BT's claimed successes are not all they're made out to be.

All these households here below receive a BT service that is far from what it's claimed to be and far from what we're paying for.

 So what is the Government going to do about that, and for how long will BT be allowed the advantageous monopoly it has but does not deserve based on current achievements?

I've also, with such recent experience of living in an urban community, asked myself, "who most needs reliable, consistent, usable broadband - those in cities or those in the countryside?"
 I no longer have easy access to banks, libraries, cinemas, shopping centres, Council offices and all the other places I took for granted I could visit cheaply and quickly.  In the 21st century a lot of these services can be accessed on-line.  An essential lifeline for those who live many miles from any of these.  Yet these are the people who have the worst broadband, if any, of our entire population here in UK.  That cannot be right, and I think it's the duty of our Government to properly address this issue and make themselves fully aware of the reality of the situation behind all the charts and maps they'll have been provided with.

ps - in answer to the inevitable question, when we can face the horrors of the BT call centre, yes our wireless is working properly and all the 'inside the house' techie side of things is working to give the best possible broadband service.  Sorry BT - it's all down to your side of things!


  1. Pretty much par for the course with this government. I wonder what happens when various ministers are in their country homes? I suppose they get a special satellite car/van to park outside.

  2. It's so frustrating isn't it. That little word UP TO has got a lot to answer for .