What is the average airspeed of a laden swallow?

…or “Why the f*ck can’t I get a decent broadband service in Wexford for love or money?”.

So, following from my last post (and btw the saga continues off-blog in a reality far far away), I’ve been looking at my other options for getting zippy fast communications that might allow me to work more productively from home for my day job (and, heaven forfend, perhaps form the basis of a revenue creation and job creation buzz here in fair Wexford. After all I can’t commute the monster commute every week for the rest of my life).

I’ve signed up to 3’s service which proudly announced on their coverage map that they had service in my area… and zip-tasticly not slow it would be as well. Eh… it’s not. It’s painfully slow. Think of how it would feel to have your skin whipped from your bones by a slug who’d just smoked an entire University campus worth of cannabis and was more concerned with what flavour mars bar he’d like to eat and you get an idea of how slow the service is. If that doesn’t work, here’s a picture of a GOOD result…
speedtest.net results for 3 broadband in Wexford

However, 3’s customer service are quite good, helpful, polite, and professional, with all my details to their finger tips. They have eventually told me there is an issue in Wexford town and its environs that has been known about for some time in 3’s engineering section who are working on it with no ETA for a solution. So why is the coverage map showing lots’ of deep blue around Wexford? Is it perhaps some form of marketing ploy that might possible be easily confused with lying (which it simply isn’t.. that would be wrong).

I’m giving it a week. Then I return it and get my money back if it isn’t working above 1MB at least. Anything less isn’t broadband speed.

I am depressed reading the Government’s Broadband strategy. It’s a joke. They don’t have one. They are clutching at straws. There is a vast amount of ‘dark fibre’ network in the country. CIE has some, and wouldn’t it be a nice way to keep rail travel costs down if they could lease that dark fibre to companies who might help service the needs of teleworkers (who might then use the train to travel to meetings when they had to).

Counting people who have access to broadband in work in their stats for people who have access to broadband is a bit of a cop-out. Are the DCENR seriously proposing that it is OK for people to use company-provided broadband services (which are usually accessed via controlled and firewalled office networks) to do personal business?

Boss: McMurphy… where’s my audit report?
McMurphy: I don’t have it done yet boss, I was just uploading photos of my kids to facebook, myspace, bebo, flickr while chatting on GChat with Mike from accounts who left to go to Australia
Boss: McMurphy… you’re fired (for a documented breach of the company’s acceptable internet use policies).

My needs are simple… a reliable broadband connection, with a download speed faster than running and an upload speed faster than walking (2MB down, 1 – 2 MB up would do, but I’d like more). I’d like the service to be not prone to sudden and inexplicable outages. I’d like my wife to be able to rely on it so she can video chat with me when I’m travelling for work… usually to Dublin where I’ve broadband a-plenty. I’d like to be able to use VPN tunnelling to access my work servers securely, rather than poxy bloody PSTN dial-up that takes forever to open the tools I use to do my job. I’d like to be able to use that broadband connection to give me choices about my work life balance, future career path, lifestyle etc.

I’d like to live in the 21st Century, not the 1980s. I’d like to feel that my ability to work with the interweb and adopt a lifestyle that let me blend my work and homelife through telework tools had actually moved on since I first got on-line in 1993 and started reading about the telework studies that they did in Puget Sound in the US and thought “that’s what I’d like to do” (at the time I was trying to run a business out of my bedroom… shortest commute I’ve ever had).

Right now it doesn’t feel that way. Right now I am painfully personally aware of the ‘digital divide’. This is more than just a pursuit of a Giffen Good (in economic terms). This is a quest for an enabling technology, a commodity not a luxury. Will “access to broadband” join “near a road”, “close to a river” etc. as critieria for discussion in junior cert geography or business studies when the students are asked to site a factory or school or government department in an exam question?

This ‘enabling technology’ is on a par with rural electrification in the 1940s (a project which didn’t end until the 1970s) , which significantly changed the nature and outlook of life in rural Ireland. One commentator describes the situation pre-rural electrification thus:

At that time, few towns in Ireland, outside of the major cities, had a local electricity supply. For example, Kilkenny had no electricity supply while others like Carlow had a local supply

Sounds very like our Broadband situation.

So, in the absence of a Broadband equivalent of Rural Electrification (which the Government’s broadband strategy definitely isn’t and which the National Broadband Scheme fails to be), or a reliable local provider of reliable local broadband (“all the bits and bytes are made local boss”) I’m pondering training pigeons to deliver messages for me through the medium of interpretive dance.

Failing that, a note nailed to their ankles will have to do.

6 thoughts on “What is the average airspeed of a laden swallow?”

  1. My situation is not as bad as what you’re facing, as at least I’m within 3Km of an on-the-list-to-be-upgraded exchange and currently have ISDN as a backup to my fixed wireless service. Combine that with the recent appearance of an alternative provider (Irish Broadband) in my area(North Kildare uplands) puts me just about on the right side of the digital divide.

    The appearance of a 2nd operator had two very positive effects; the sudden departure of a large percentage of disgruntled customers took a huge load of the existing network’s creaky infrastructure and, I’m guessing here, this sudden departure of paying customers prompted the original provider to send somebody in management on a Irish Times customer care course. The network still fails regularly (for the last few weeks, due to the “wrong type” of rain!) but at least customers can now get information on the fault and they also seem to have put engineers on-call at weekends. Competition, isn’t it marvellous?


  2. Tom,

    I’m less than 100 metres from an exchange that was supposed to be upgraded in Sept 2007. I don’t even have ISDN available in the exchange (because it is due to go Broadband apparently). The village I live in has the distinction of having the lowest broadband penetration in the country (according to the CSO). The Dept of the Environment have an advance office less than 10 minutes walk from my house.

    Competition is marvellous, but unfortunately many semi-rural areas are left struggling with just one provider. Solutions that fail due to “wrong type of rain” or “usage on a day of week with a ‘Y’ in it” are only workable for people if there is appropriate levels of customer support to wing it (such as immediately stopping billing if the service is out for more than a week).

    Matters aren’t helped by coverage maps from providers that are wrong to the level of being a blatant lie. This works both ways… some providers maps show coverage where there isn’t and other are probably losing business by not having accurate or updated coverage maps. I’m peeved at the former camp and irritated by the latter.

    The difficulty with getting planning permission for masts is also a challenge to the roll out of wireless services that is restricting coverage, from what I can see.

    As soon as I get the rebate cheque from my ex-provider I’ll be touting around the one other provider in my area I haven’t gone with yet. Customer service, advance site survey, availability of other nodes to point to etc. will all be criteria in my decision.

    Hope the weather changes for you soon Tom. 😉

  3. Got hold of my sister’s “3” phone today. I live in an area that 3’s maps say should have 3g broadband coverage; alas the signal seemed to have the same footprint as my Vodafone GPRS signal (back bedrooms and north-side of the house only), that’s because it is Vodafone, 3’s backup outside their 3g area!.

    As you said, why build up peoples’ hope…


  4. Update:

    Today, Tuesday (after the last of the Oxegenators had gone home), took the 3 phone and laptop to Punchestown where there’s a strong 3G signal. Managed to connect with download speeds around the 300 mark and uploads at 50Kbps. So, five time faster than ISDN for browsing, a little slower for uploads; but broadband it ain’t!!


  5. Further Update:

    I think I was unfair to 3’s Punchestown’s network yesterday as looking at the modem spec for the phone in question it’s only capable of a max download of 384kbps.


  6. Came home this evening to find diggers and evidence of techie stuff around the RSU Cabinet near the house. Big placard identifying that Contractor X was working for Eircom…

    …could it be…
    ….might it be…

    do I dare hold my breath? Could they be upgrading the exchange?

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