Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Internet access

I work online, so good quality Internet access is important to me. I had some reservations about moving to the South West, suspecting that it might simply be "too far from London" for reliable, fast Internet access. Having said that, I have had bad Internet access experiences within reasonable commuting distance of London.

I shouldn't have worried. BT - as usual - did their best to prevent me accessing the Internet. There was a phone line in my house which I couldn't use because it was "still in use". I had to pay for a new line, I was told. When the BT technician came, he said the line that was still in use had been disconnected at the telegraph pole a long time ago and all available connections used for some newly built houses in the neighbourhood. No, really. A few weeks (why does it have to take so long?) later, I had the best Internet connection I have ever had in the UK.

From speedtest.net:

From BT Wholesale:

That's a great download speed, and more than sufficient for me. .9Mb/s upstream is not bad either, though I would prefer the figures to be more similar to each other or even reversed! I produce content (media and software) at home and must frequently upload it to the Internet. A slow upstream connection is a severe handicap on my productivity.

The reason why Internet connections so often feature slow upstream bandwidth and fast downstream is that they're consumer connections. We're expected to consume content from centrally located servers. Whenever I see campaigns for faster broadband, they typically demand ever faster consumer connections. There are obviously very many people who would like to watch YouTube videos at ever greater resolutions and with ever briefer buffering delays - what they want is TV, but to watch different programs at different times to their neighbours. It's this demand that dictates that we get Internet connections with enormous download bandwidths (for delivering video to us) and pitifully small upload bandwidths (to allow us to change channels on our TV emulators).

I wish we had something better suited to home digital production - it ought to be the UK's new cottage industry. Perhaps there's some scope for installing a community-managed network in a place like Tavistock, but there would have to be considerable local interest in it. I fear the future is almost certainly more asymmetric (bandwidth and services) wireless networks. Maybe I'll have to move to a capital city so I can 'work remotely' within shouting distance of a data centre.

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