Friday, February 19, 2010

Slow, slow, quick quick slow

One of the biggest complaints of computer users in the UK is the poor quality of our Internet connections. A major source of consumer complaints is that people aren't getting the promised speeds from their broadband providers. And it's true, though I suspect that the cause of the problems aren't the providers themselves but the common infrastructure they are all forced to use, a legacy of the British disease of under-investment.

A couple of months ago I switched over to TalkTalk, subscribing to their Pro package which promised "up to 24Mbit/s downloads." To be fair, they only promised me 14Mbit/s based on my location. At times I am achieving 11.25MBit/s which is not too far short of that and a lot faster than I was getting. The problem is that the performance is not consistent. One evening this week the TalkTalk speed test registered just 0.5Mbit/s, and poor speeds are the norm during the evenings, weekends and school holidays. This is exactly the same problem I had with my previous ISP.

The trouble is that more and more people are using computers and the internet but the infrastructure isn't being upgraded to match this. Go for a walk round here in the evening and through a window in just about every house you'll see someone sitting in front of a computer. To make matters worse, people are being encouraged to use the internet to watch video on demand - a huge consumer of bandwidth and a grossly inefficient way of distributing video content in my opinion. Whether it is actually watchable I have no idea, as I have never tried it, but internet radio with its much more modest bandwidth requirement is more or less unusable in the evenings, subject to frequent interruptions while the device fills its buffers.

I think Britain is slowly degenerating into a third world country, with third rate inadequate roads, third rate antiquated railways and a third rate telephone network, all the result of inadequate investment by a succession of third rate governments comprised of third rate politicians more interested in feathering their own nests and furthering their own careers instead of doing something for the benefit of the country.

This pathetic government has even had the gall to make everyone with a telephone pay a "broadband tax" to pay for a broadband network to be built across the country. Why should this essential improvement be singled out for a special tax while overseas aid, foreign wars and social benefits are paid for out of normal taxation? I would say thank goodness there's an election coming, but from the look of it I don't think the opposition will be any better.
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