Thousands in Somerset and Devon Call for Faster Broadband
A staggering 15,000 residents in Summerset and Devon have protested against sluggish broadband speeds.
The campaign led by both councils under the coalition Connecting Devon and Somerset, comes after a uSwitch report revealed as much as one third of the British public receive broadband speeds well below the nation’s average.
So why are broadband speeds in Somerset, Devon and so many other regions in the UK, so slow?
How slow can you go?
An Ofcom study has shown that almost 18 per cent of residents in the two counties are currently dealing with internet speeds of less than 2Mbps. That’s well over three times less than the British average, which lies at 6.742Mbps.
What’s even worse is that the British average isn’t even fast in comparison to other countries – with the United Kingdom, according to an analysis conducted by Akamai – ranking a miserly 25th in Europe alone. A similar study carried by Net Index placed Britain 37th globally after a broadband speed test
So to clarify, the broadband speed in Somerset and Devon is over three times slower than the average of a country that lies 37th worldwide. Doesn’t sound pretty, does it?
Why Are We So Slow?
So why are internet speeds in Dorset and Somerset so slow? Well, while it was originally presupposed that slow broadband connection rates were only commonly found in low populated rural regions; but that theory has been thrown out of the water, after several densely populated areas such as Lancaster – home to 134,000 people and two universities – showed slow connectivity speeds.
It seems as if the answer could be in the infrastructure of Britain’s telecommunications system. You see, the strength of an internet connection is correlated to the length of one’s phone line in connecting to the telephone exchange.
This is the case for those whose internet connection runs on the old copper telephone line, which then connects to an exchange. The problem is simply that a lot of our telephone lines are too long and the longer the line longer it will take for your broadband to pass back and forth through that wire.
This is the issue with much of our connection systems and much of the time the strength in connection is determined by the distance to a phone exchange. So a solution would have to be an installation of more phone exchanges and a reconnection of phone lines to the nearest exchange.
What’s frustrating in Britain however is that some phone lines are unnecessarily long. For example, in the Isle of Dogs, the straight line distance between some homes and an exchange is 3km; yet the line distance is actually 7km. This is an unnecessary inconvenience, and one that should be sorted to provide faster connection speeds.
Another solution is to switch to cable. Unfortunately, Virgin are the only internet provider in the UK that use cable: a much smoother and faster connection means. So a solution could then of course be for internet providers to switch to cable systems.
However, this would require hugely expensive, large scale renovation and construction that would have to change the complete infrastructure of Britain and would take more than a while.
Furthermore, evidence suggests that this may not even be necessary. In South Korea, the country that boasts the fastest internet connection in the world, only one of the internet providers (Thrunet) rely on cable. Of the other two, KT uses the copper line method, while Hanaro use a mixture of cable and DSL.
Another, more controversial answer to our sluggish internet connectivity, is to switch our system to an “open network”. An open network is where internet providers share the cables that carry internet signals into people’s homes.
This is done in South Korea and works like a treat. Experts have cited this to be the reason behind South Korea’s super fast internet speeds. An open network also reduces costs in infrastructure, as only one system is needed.
However, the company with a monopoly on the internet in the UK – namely Virgin who trump the others with their cable system – typically won’t concede to sharing their connection means.
These are the most probable problems regarding our slow internet speeds and whatever the solution is, something needs to be done.