The truth of (winter) broadband in rural areas

I’ve been endeavouring to operate over a satellite connection and mobile broadband for the last two days. For anyone who thinks this is a solution for next generation access, please allow me to disabuse you of the notion entirely.

I have had satellite internet since affordable internet through Aramiska first appeared on the horizon (at approx 18 degrees, or whatever) in 2002/3. In fact, if anyone needs a dish, mine is still attached to my house. When we installed Great Asby Broadband, it ran off a satellite dish at the top of Asby.

Ditto multiple villages across Yorkshire and Humberside, (and beyond), many of whom adopted our “Ten and you’re there” approach. Which is why we went into voluntary 24/7 solutions mode when Aramiska went bust – there were a phenomenal number of people to support who couldn’t get BT broadband at all – nowt new there then. (If you are new to the UK broadband game, this will all seem a tad mysterious etc, but please, bear in mind, there are people at grassroots level who have done everything and anything they can to connect people throughout the Noughties when BT couldn’t prove financial viability for rural areas. Sound familiar??!).

For nigh on 15 years, my commercial and personal aspirations on the Internet have failed, almost entirely, to be supported by UK or even EU telcos through affordable services for businesses. This week, during heavy snow, I have decided to operate from a typical farm to see how it works when you are reliant on what the BSG and Analysys Mason have recently claimed is suitable for connectivity throughout the next decade.

The satellite, despite all claims to the contrary from people who do not have them, has not failed at all. I’m waiting for the chance to wipe the snow off the transponder but even with 6inches of snow outside, it has gainfully provided connectivity. (However, even as a ‘fatter pipe’ due to shared costs, it isn’t just me stuck at home and the contention is telling). Not so the mobile network, which (on Orange anyway) has been patchy as hell. First sign of a flurry (and we have had plenty) and the network has vanished. Completely. And if you think I am going wandering outside with my arm above my head in a blizzard, you really don’t know me!

However, the reality is that this is NOT broadband. It’s internet connectivity [tick] but it’s so sporadic and bloody limited, you can’t even get a link whilst typing your blog post. One or t’other. Not both.

Watching a video on Youtube is only possible, over either mobile or satellite, if you are truly bored, have several hours to kill and money to burn paying the mobile tariff. None of that is the case when you are not sure how the cattle and sheep and horses are faring, when your neighbours need help getting to the GP, or the coal man cannot get through to the village and it’s all hands to grit the road.

In fact, the reality is that finding time to even be on the computer is zero when everything is down to you and your neighbours and not some civil servant somewhere. But, we have ‘other devices’, don’t we?  Or so say BSG, Analysys, BT, the government etc.

Do you know what? Come and try it. Get your 3G dongle to work where I am. It won’t. And even if it did, the people you are trying to reach are probably in a notspot. We are not all trying to talk to the corridors of power; more likely, we need help from those who can actually JFDI (something useful) and they are probably in a notspot too.
Those who know me will have spotted my social media productivity alone has been limited massively over the last few days. I (as a next gen business that was 10 years ahead of its time once upon a …) already operate at approx 40% of my possible productivity because I cannot access 8, 10, 20, 50, 100 or 1000Mbps. That has been ongoing since 1994. (And I blame the incumbent, government, councils and others). In 2010, being stuck on a mobile plus satellite has slashed that to near as damn it zero.

If this is next generation broadband access, I’m a bloody snowman.

(Photos will be added to this post when I can get fuel in my now empty car, and access the library or the nearest UK ONline Centre (10 miles away, and both by the nearest fuel stations) because the mobile network has now given up trying to contact Flickr after 1.5hours trying.).

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I continue to be amazed that the government sticks "Satellite" broadband under the NGA label, even when many of their own reports say that it's only useful as a solution for the 2Mbps USC. NGA is a totally different animal, fibre optic access no less, and should not be associated with Satellite until that technology can also deliver comparable performance and flexibility at an affordable price (i.e. not going to happen anytime soon, especially not for latency).
We can feel your pain. Keep screaming, they will have to listen to us one day instead of these fwit consultancies who know nothing. chris
It's amazing how many people dismiss satellite when, as Lindsey says "The satellite, despite all claims to the contrary from people who do not have them, has not failed at all. I'm waiting for the chance to wipe the snow off the transponder but even with 6inches of snow outside, it has gainfully provided connectivity." I've checked the signal to/from the dish (we supply the service to the people she's sharing with and with a bit of tweaking, it could be better. We're here to help with that. Satellite has generations too. Admittedly, we're probably a couple of years behind the average on out-and-out speed and it will never compete with a properly dimensioned FTTH network. But OTOH, we'll probably be up into the 10 or 20 Mbps offers for less than £30pm by the time the target date of 2015 comes round. Now it's up to you - do you want to wait and see if these promises of "jam tomorrow" arrive or would you like a bread-and-butter service in the meantime?