The shoddy state of "Broadband" internet access in the UK
Saturday, September 22, 2007 2:34:35 AM
Since most "Max" 8M ADSL providers cannot economically provide "Max" bandwidth to all of its customers, the vast majority employ a technique called "traffic shaping", which really means "dreadful, inconsistent speed". For example, on my expensive "Max" (£35 pm) service, on a good day I can get 4-5M at 4am (yes, 4 in the morning), but at 4pm it is usually below 1M and has many times dropped below 1/4M (yes, a quarter). This is a truly awful state of affairs, and makes home/remote working very difficult. Although most services are advertised as "up to" (in very small font) 8M (large font), my current provider, Eclipse, offers four tiers of service of which I am paying the top tier. Some service. Add to this the fact that BT are also contending the Max services at the exchange - another bottleneck when too many users are connecting into your local exchange on the same service. I often wish that I could go back to my old 2M service - most of the time it was faster, and it was certainly more consistent.
As if this wasn't bad enough, I happened to get stuck with an ISP prior to Eclipse that I couldn't migrate away from, meaning downtime of 1-2 months and £70 fees, with no help from Ofcom or BT wholesale or anyone else. My isp - "Fast24" - weren't answering the phone and were actually talking to the official receiver, I had no connection and couldn't get the damn ADSL lock on my line removed.
Worse above all, given that internet connectivity is now an essential element in modern economic infrastucture, it's truly disadvantaging us all in the new global economy.
Isn't it about time that our celebrity leaders (ahem, sorry, our government) stepped in?
1) Things could be much faster (it is in many other countries) but for the stupid beaurocracy and competition rules that are getting in the way. BT wholesale still own the exchanges and really slow things down for their own benefit.
2) Companies should be held accountable. "up to" (in very small font) 8M (large font) is a clear misrepresentation; just ask 100 people (who don't know better) what they'd expect to get on average, from that description.
3) ADSL2+ has been around in other countries for ages, offering up to 20M and typically 15M speeds. BE (O2) offer it here but have their hands tied as to how and when they can fit their upgraded ADSL2 hardware to the exchanges (all over the country), for the above (BT wholesale) reasons. No pressure is being applied to BT wholesale to make this upgrade procedure swift and painless so that the country can keep up to date as ADSL3,4,5 develops. Hello 10 years ago, when we had the same swimming through treacle to try to get all the exchanges running good old ADSL, and the stupid queueing website where demand granted an upgrade. Remember that? After all, we do love queueing in this place, don't we?
4) Traffic shaping is used because the few internet backbone suppliers that pipe to the UK (mostly operating out of the London Docklands) have an effective monopoly and overcharge the ISPs for blocks of bandwidth. For that reason, their systems cannot support heavy users who might be getting their full 8M for hours on end while download a movie or using P2P software like bittorrent. My answer to all this is, so what? We shouldn't be in this position in the first place. Time for our celebrity leaders to step in again!
Overall, the current situation is a damn disgrace, and another example of "rip off britain" at work.