Are we the only people on the planet without broadband? This is not a rant, more of a whinge really. But it increasingly affects our daily lives.
When we moved here in 1997, the Internet was in its infancy and broadband was a gleam in someone’s eye. Since then, the technology has moved on in leaps and bounds. Unfortunately, where we live hasn’t moved with it.
The way we were
To start with, we were still ordering air tickets through a travel agent by telephone. I was sending work to clients by snail mail rather than by email. Internet sites were relatively simple and could be accessed – if somewhat slowly – with a modem connection.
Fast forward a few years and things had changed out of all recognition. Internet sites became not only de rigueur for any organisation worth its salt but also increasingly complex with pop-ups, slideshows and all sorts of bells and whistles. These required an increasingly sophisticated means of capturing them at the receiving end.
We (don’t) have the technology
Unfortunately for us, we are at the end of a very long telephone network and have no hope, ever, of being connected to broadband (or ADSL as it’s known in France). The further you are from the exchange, the less likely it is that you can benefit from broadband. Beyond 6km you can forget it altogether. People who live only 1km from us as the crow flies are on download speeds that we can only dream of. We just happen to be in a zone blanche where we are too far from the exchange and the population density is insufficient to justify France Telecom ever doing anything about it. Fibre-optic networks are also an impossible dream in rural areas like ours.
Would you believe that up to 20 months ago, we were still operating with a modem connection, supplying a download speed of 32kbps? There’s no way I could have contemplated running this blog on that performance. The local communauté de communes entered into an agreement with an Internet provider to supply Internet connection by radio waves/WiFi. But this covered only certain areas and, with a horrible inevitability, ours was not included and probably never will be.
A partial solution
Fortunately, there was still one option left: satellite. Several providers offer a system whereby you can connect to the Internet using a satellite dish and pay a reasonable monthly tariff. As the market has become more competitive, so the tariffs have reduced. We duly signed up with one of them and installed the system ourselves at a cost of around €300. There are three different tariffs offering a progressively higher speed the more you pay.
Nothing is ever simple, though, is it? While this system provides us with vastly greater connection speeds than we had before with the modem, there are still numerous downsides:
- The download/upload speed still doesn’t approach anywhere near full broadband speed. We have to plead with friends and relatives not to send us photos or video clips, we can’t use Skype and I have to upload images to this blog in compressed format, which is why they always look blurred and less than satisfactory.
- We have a download quota, which is reset every month. If you exceed the download quota before the month end, the download speed reduces progressively.
- If the number of people connecting to the satellite exceeds a certain number at any one time, it just shuts down. This is really irritating if you are in the middle of a transaction or trying to upload something to an Internet site.
- It’s now a selling point for your house to have broadband (ADSL), something we are unable to offer.
None of these things was an issue when we moved here. So, when you’re downloading a 50MB computer programme at the blink of an eye, spare a thought for us here, still in the age of steam.
I still wouldn’t swap our place, though, for anywhere else. Not till I win the Premium Bonds, anyway.
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