For most of us broadband Internet access is something that we consider to be essential, and something that we take for granted. But there are many people in the UK for whom broadband web access seems little more than a pipe dream.
You might assume that broadband access is always as widely available as drinking water in larger towns and cities but you’d be wrong. Residents of some very heavily populated areas find themselves struggling with lacklustre connections in much the same way that the most rural of customers do.
Literally millions of people across the UK find that they are living in a so-called “broadband not spot” – an area where the broadband revolution has yet to reach or, strangely, an area that has been missed out as surrounding areas have been upgraded.
It all comes down to geography and a peculiarity of copper-based telecommunications. According to broadband availability service SamKnows, if the distance to your local telephone exchange is greater than 4km then true broadband of 2Mbps or higher is not possible.
This is because the longer the copper line is between your home and your local exchange the more your broadband connection will suffer, until a critical point is reached. Quite simply, if you are more than 4km away from the exchange then ADSL broadband with any kind of respectable download speed is not something that you can have.
There are number of ways in which residents are trying to address their broadband envy. Those living in urban areas can often opt for fibre optic broadband instead. This is actually a much more attractive option as it is much, much faster than the ADSL services that are offered across the phone network.
Roughly half of all UK homes are said to lie within Virgin broadband or BT Infinity fibre optic broadband areas and residents in these areas understandably snap up the offer of fibre optic broadband if they can. But what about everyone else?
For those who live in more rural broadband “not spots” the solutions are not quite as quick and easy, and certainly not as cheap.
For those living in the most isolated areas, such as farmhouses surrounded on all sides by fields, satellite broadband is perhaps the best option. Just as Sky uses satellites to beam digital TV signals to UK homes so satellite ISPs use a satellite to allow subscribers in remote areas to browse the web. And while the connection speeds may be lower and the subscription charges higher than with ADSL2+ it is still considered a godsend to those who rely on it every day.
Some residents in larger rural areas are also taking matters into their owns hands with Community Broadband Projects now springing up across the UK. In these schemes residents pool their resources to pay for the installation of broadband equipment at their exchange, often with the help of organisations such as the Rural Broadband Partnership. The Partnership helps by offering advice to communities and by putting them in touch with private companies that have the know-how to realise their broadband dreams.
Alongside these schemes are others such as The Final Third First Campaign, which is hoping to persuade the government to stop the “digital divide” from becoming even vaster by upgrading these outlying districts that have so far missed out on the latest roll out of broadband technology.