What broadband revolution?

They promised me high speed on the information super-highway - but I’ve only hit the information byway so far

By Simon Round, December 17, 2009
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Recently I decided to upgrade my home internet capability — mainly so that I would be able to obtain accelerated access to the JC’s superb online coverage of the Jewish world… and also to watch the occasional edition of Top Gear on the iPlayer.

The process gave me an insight into the way the corporate world promises much and then delivers, well, nothing much at all. I checked very carefully whether my flat was covered by a mobile broadband signal — it was. Palmers Green was clearly shaded in pink on the map on the 3 network, which meant I would be eligible for a cheap deal and unrivalled coverage.

However, the internet connection was not what I had envisaged. Without blinding you too much with science, I discovered that my band was not quite as broad as I had been led to believe. In fact, it turned out to be quite narrow. As you may be aware, in internet, band-breadth is everything, as opposed to radio which works on waves. A medium-sized wave is perfectly acceptable on the radio — in fact it’s better than long wave which will only get you access to the shipping forecast or test match cricket — and then only if the radio is perched on the edge of the chest of drawers in the bedroom.

Anyway, I digress. Despite the extreme narrowness of my band, which made it tricky to get access to Facetube and Youspace and interweb stuff like that, the 3 icon on my desktop clearly informed me that my coverage was “fast” — this despite the fact that Jeremy Clarkson’s face had been frozen on my screen for five minutes. Several minutes later, with the screen still frozen, the icon informed me that my coverage was “fastest”.

They told me how I could speed up: I could take my laptop upstairs to get better reception

Luckily, 3’s website gave me tips on how to speed up (my already supposedly superfast) coverage. I could take my laptop upstairs where reception was likely to be better (although I don’t know how my neighbours in the upstairs flat would feel about that); I could position myself and my laptop near a window; or best of all, go outside. Sure enough, I was soon sending emails and watching videos online… but then it started raining so I had to go in.

Time, I thought, to find a new broadband provider. Between showers, I looked online to investigate who provided the best deals. Plusnet promised me fast broadband at low prices. I signed up. What happened? Well, nothing at all.

I waited, poised by my laptop waiting for enhanced coverage to happen, but nothing did. I sent them emails whenever the weather relented and they ensured me that they were getting right to the source of the problem.

The way they chose communicate to me that I was tantalisingly close to being connected to their award-winning broadband service was by text — very early in the morning.

So now not only did I have a really sluggish internet connection but I was being woken up at 7am at weekends by a new provider who was not actually providing me with anything at all.

Eventually my new wireless router arrived and I hooked myself up — only to discover that the new series of Top Gear was not nearly as good as the last one — even without that little revolving circle in the middle of the screen.

Ah well, at least I get the occasional lie-in these days.

    Last updated: 11:12am, December 17 2009