Life in a Notspot

On Tuesday the BBC released information on the ‘hotspots’ and ‘notspots’ of broadband access around the UK. Their research put pay to the theory that it’s always those who live in rural areas that struggle as many of the worst areas were in commuter belts. Villages practically next door to each other can have varying levels of connectivity.

mapThe Samknows map took postcodes from across the UK in areas with known slow connections, or zero broadband availability, and plotted them on a map. On the map the red dots represent postcodes with ADSL broadband speeds of less than 512Kbps and the blue dots represent postcodes with ADSL broadband speeds of less than 2Mbps, while black dots represent areas where no broadband is available – under 1% of homes in the UK cannot get any broadband at all.

All this information is a little worrying given that the government has pledged to provide all homes in the UK with speeds of at least 2Mbps by 2012.

Technology Correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones has also been carrying out a timed download test in locations round the UK. The BBC allows you to test your own broadband speed using it’s connection tester and then add a comment on its broadband map.

I thought I’d have a go at this. My speed varied between 0.8 and 1.3 Mbps (depending on when I took the test and which browser I used – IE seemed to be slower). It took me almost 50 seconds to download a 10Mb quick time file. I am officially a notspot (though Thinkbroadband, a site where you can report broadband problems, would classify me as a slowspot). It’s quite possible that the test isn’t accurate, though a quick check on broadbandspeedtest did come up with similar results.

A “not-spot” is an area where you can’t get broadband services (at all, or at a reasonable cost)

A “slow-spot” is an area where you can only get a broadband service with a speed of below 2 Mbps (downstream)

On a day to day basis I don’t have any problems using the connection and can do all I need to (including uploading video), though there are moments when I might need to do a bit of reading while I wait for a large file to arrive. I don’t do a lot of work with high quality images or videos and manage to watched streamed video fairly OK. I live in a pretty old house so my problems might be to do with the state of the wiring or something related.

I don’t really feel disadvantaged in anyway but maybe if my job did entail working on big files I might feel differently. It seems the decision over whether an individual can be a remote worker isn’t just dependant on whether their organisation will allow it or how responsible they are as an individual. It also depends on where they live.

I also noticed that on the ‘Have your say’ section someone had commented “How long is it going to be before people who want a fast connection ask estate agents, “How fast is the internet connection at that address?” – this is an interesting one. My post on the House of the Future speculated that in the future setting your house up for home working would be a real bonus. Perhaps now that geographic connectivity is being openly charted broadband connection will be one of the searches that solicitors look into? Something along the lines of “...Are you on a flood plain? Are you in a broadband notspot?

If that’s the case maybe I do need to shout louder and have Mr Government pop round and fix our local fibres!