The Digital Divide and Blogging

Some people will know that I live in a pleasant area of the Lincolnshire Wolds and if I look out of the back of my house I can see two houses in the distance, one is a mile away, the other probably two miles away.  The countryside surrounds me and very nice it is. However rural life and modern life don’t always make happy bedfellows. What would be seen as an essential  in most parts of the country as the 4th utility, i.e. Broadband barely works and it is getting worst. I think it started to get bad after the local exchange box near the village, had all its cables ripped out for scrap metal.  These were replaced but the speed seems to be slower.   Incidently, a week later I heard that the metal thieves cut down the telegraph poles nearby to get the metal cables – unbelievable!

I guess that in my part of the country (and I don’t mean towns in the area) we don’t offer a big enough incentive to put in fibre. I looked up what  the population density is for the least populated area of England, this being 66 people per square km.  My area is 77 people per square km.

While people sign up to BT Infinity after watching the advert with the smug students talking about downloading films,streaming music and much more, down in the country we have a broadband speed which barely uploads a photo in two minutes when things get bad and often just stops. At its best we can get 0.9mb/s download and just 0.23mb/s upload. We knew that we were not going to be the first in line for getting a decent speed and I guess that is one of the downsides of where we live, however with the government encouraging more and more of us to do our daily lives on-line they shouldn’t be leaving a proportion of the population living in the slow-lane.   The stupid thing is that fibre is laid to the Primary School, but no-one else can tap into it.  Rural broadband programmes, there seems to be plenty, but they always seem to be coming the next year and guess what they don’t come!

The problem with this and blogging(let alone working from home some of the week) is that trying to upload those photos from the latest trip is sooooo slow, like a snail on Mogadon. My last post which only had 5 or 6 photos took over 2 hours to post up and eventually you give up. Just how much can you take of the swirly circle in the middle of your laptop screen.  It also makes catching up on blogs a pain, videos you can forget and photo rich posts become a problem.  Andy from surfnslide kindly reduced the size of his photos in some of his posts for me!

So what to do? I am sure you won’t be surprised to learn that we get a poor mobile signal in our area, so a 3G dongle is out of the question. Wait for a faster broadband that could be 2015. I looked at a wireless broadband signal, some settlements in the area can get this, but it needs a direct line of sight and I have trees in the way. So I am going for satellite broadband. Some say that there is a latency issue (around 600ms delay) with satellite. Well try the delay I get at the moment and it is not a problem.

The package I am going for gives me 18mb/s download and 6mb/s upload which is around 18 times faster than I get at best.  So soon it will be life in the fast line:)  Oh and how long did it take me to post this up? Not long, I am typing this up in my hotel room using my iPhone’s 3G signal !!

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29 Responses to The Digital Divide and Blogging

  1. I thought we were slow in Hayfield – which is in itself ridiculous only about 15 miles out of Manchester – but you’re definitely in a different category! Incidentally, we’ve just today signed up for ‘infinity’, which has only just reached this area………
    Actually this summer we were really impressed with mobile and 3G signals in Norway and Sweden. Wherever we were, however isolated the spot, we always had full strength with both. Talking to a couple who lived in Sweden, it appears that the governments over there had a policy that everyone should have proper access to these aspects of modern life – wherever they went. I think it’s long overdue that this should be done in the UK too. Most of the time even in the Dales we can’t use the mobiles. And as for digital TV………… I don’t care what anybody says, half the places we use the van we can’t pick anything up…………

    • Chrissie, Scandanavia is good for mobile signals. I have also found that many mountain areas of Austria and Switzerland have excellent mobile signal. My concern about the area around where live is I can afford the expense (the company will pay). Most of my on line time and Mary’s is company business. However there are many who may not be able to afford this service in my village who will be left stranded in the slow lane. Believe or not, the speed is even slow at one end of the village to me !!

      I still take out my Spot 2 messenger when walking in hills, the mobile signal is still not good enough.

  2. Diane Tibert says:

    I feel your pain. We’re in the country, too, and we lived with dial-up for fourteen years, but it was better than nothing. It made me appreciate the size–the smallness, which translated into quick downloading–of a website. Because of this, I try to keep my blog simple, quick to download. I found Blogspot hosted the most horrible websites, loaded with pictures on the front page. I’m not sure if the person who post the blogs has a choice to have only a sample on the webpage or the entire post, but if they have choice, sample, please. I avoided all blogspot blogs because of this because it took forever to load, or froze or loaded improperly.

    This is our second week on Fibre-op–high speed in Nova Scotia. I’m not peddling to the store anymore! Still, I’ll keep my site simple for those still peddling.

    We have copper thieves here, too. I wish they’d find a better ‘job’.

    • Hi Diane. Glad you now have high speed. Has most of Canada now got broadband? or are there still areas not connected? On my last visit (this year) to the USA (West Coast) I was surprised how many rural areas had poor speed.

      • Diane Tibert says:

        I can’t speak for most of Canada, but I can imagine there are many locations across the country that have no service at all. There’s pockets in Nova Scotia that doesn’t have anything yet. I know a woman about twenty minutes away from me (further in the woods) who is serviced by some company in Ontario, and she’s lucky to get a signal at all. It’s a very poor set-up, but she’s locked into an insane contract. Our provincial government set a deadline to provide internet access to everyone in the province, but there was no quality control. Where our cottage is located, we must stand on a rock on the hill, reach into the sky at the right angle and hope for a few bars on the cell phone. Internet is out of the question unless you get it through the telephone wires (dial-up), and then it’s slower than slow, and if it rains…well, you might as well send a letter. I’m lucky now, but when we move to more remote parts of the province in the near future, I might not be. So I’ll enjoy it while I can.

      • Hi Diane, interesting to hear about other countries broadband and mobile signal problems. Maybe you will have to look at satellite when you move !

  3. Robin says:

    What about sattelite broadband?

  4. Robin says:

    Or even satellite 🙂

  5. zippety says:

    I sympathise. In South Devon our broadband speed is not rapid, but at least we can stream video.
    BT may upgrade our local exchange to fibre, next year; but that is only half the story, they also need to upgrade the cabinets in the street to use the faster speeds fibre can provide and this is not happening at anything like the speed of upgrading exchanges. I am cynical about the improvements fibre will bring in rural or semi-rural areas. A lot of people get better speeds from 3G dongles, but 3G round here is limited to say the least. Good luck with the satellite broadband!

  6. In the longer term this may help

    If it means more good blogs like yours (I whinge a lot but like to give credit where it’s due) then I’m all for it. Probably not much in the scale of things and (whinge alert) I can’t help but wonder if any government department will spend the money, which is already wasting, efficiently.

  7. Good luck with the satellite upgrade Mark.

    In the UK, governments of all colours have a shoddy attitude towards rural issues such as broadband, transport, etc. It’s all very well promising the earth in an election campaign, but it would be good to see it in reality. Huh, fine chance of that happening!

    Rant over !!! 🙂

  8. Alan R says:

    Your not alone Mark. Many areas in Cumbria are just as badly, if not worse off. My mate has just got his Satellite system up and running. It’s ridiculous when you consider how small our country is and how expensive we pay for a slow system. Write to your MP and keep him aware that Broadband is a necessity in rural areas.

    • Alan, I couldn’t agree more. One of the benefits of high speed rural broadband is that fact that home workers and small businesses can bring more to the rural economy and avoid putting a lot more traffic on the road.

  9. surfnslide says:

    My mate has the same problem in a very rural location, he was using mobile broadband with an external aerial booster but he’s moving to Satellite Broadband as well. Glad my reduced photo size was helpful, I think it looks better so I’ll stick with it

  10. backpackingbongos says:

    Mark, I would happily swap my super fast cable modem for your rural life anyday! Nearest neighbour a mile away, I have probably got around 100,000 people within a square mile. They can be noisy unsociable buggers………………..

    I was a litle bemused with all the fanfare in the news about superfast 4G networks coming online, in most rural areas you are lucky to get a basic signal, yet alone 3G. At my sisters house in Suffolk you have to go outside to use the phone, as for internet……………………..

    • James I am lucky from that point of view in living in the countryside and I guess that is one of the prices to pay.

      I just think that a basic utility like fast broadband should be available to all sections of society. BTW I do have some neighbours. There are 4 of us down the bottom of a country lane but out the back of us fields stretch to the horizon so we have a very quiet life down here! My sister lives in Suffolk as well and has a similar slow speed to your sister, so it is not just Lincolnshire!


  11. McEff says:

    Some interesting correspondence here, Mark. Our broadband, for a village in North Yorkshire, is quite good, but mobile reception is practically non-existent despite the A1M being only half a mile away. What always strikes me as being peculiar is that if I go walking in the Pyrenees, the Sierra Nevada and other wild parts of Spain and France, the mobile reception is usually first rate. But stray into the Pennines, the Lakes or the Highlands and you might as well leave your phone at home.
    There is probably an explanation to this and it’s probably related to profits and what proportion of those profits are diverted into improving services. There again I’m a cynical sod so I’d say that anyway.
    Hope things pick up, Cheers, Alen

  12. GeoffC says:

    I hear you.
    I was involved in our local campaign to get the standard 8Mbit back in 2004, now it’s the same sad saga all over again – the BT rollout website doesn’t even show us on the plan at all.
    The really annoying thing is that when a technological innovation or initiative happens and the media hail it as another leap forward, what actually happens is that those who already have fast broadband get even faster broadband, it does sod all for anyone not in a fairly large town.

    • Hi Geoff, like you I have been involved in a local campaign (as part of the local parish action plan) . One of the key “wants” was fast broadband. It seems that we will have to wait until 2015 for that speed !

  13. HI Mark,

    I was just wondering which company you went with for the provision?

    • Andy, I have just had Tooway installed. I have a few issues which I am getting sorted by my tech guy at work. The speed is not where should be, but it is faster than before and I can stream HD videos at long last and upload photos quickly to this blog. I will do a report once I have experience under my belt.

  14. terrybnd says:

    I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with your new broadband Mark. I know a few in the Peak District who’ve gone with Tooway – they’ve not looked back mate. Expensive but they think it’s worth it.

    • Good to know. As I work from home 2-3 days a week and so does my wife I couldn’t carry on at the speed I was getting. I am keeping the old broadband connection for my sons(not expensive,but shouldn’t be for the speed I get out of it!,asthere is a latency issue with satellite, which is not good for “shoot them up” on-line gaming. After a few days of very slow speeds of only 1.9-3 Mbps,this morning it has sorted itself out and I am currently getting 22 Mbps down and 6Mbps up, which is pretty impressive if holds – more testing required.

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