I want to talk about broadband internet.
My first experience of broadband was when my old neighbour Iain got a 256kb line put in. I was absolutely blown away by how it worked; if the page hadn’t loaded within a few seconds, then it wasn’t going to. That was at least ten years ago, and obviously things have sped on in leaps and bounds since then. Only a couple of years ago broadband was being offered at “up to 8mbps”, and now it’s routine to see providers boasting “up to 24mbps!”
Problem is, it’s a whole crock of bullshit, isn’t it?
Take my provider, TalkTalk. According to their website, we could be getting up to 24meg, but a speed test last night showed that we were only getting 3mbps, meaning a real world download speed of around 400kbps. That’s just 1/8th of the speed we’re promised that we ‘could’ reach. In what world is that reasonable or fair? If you buy a car, you expect to get the whole damn thing, not just a steering wheel, gear stick and four wheels. If you got 1/8 of a brand new Honda Civic, you’d soon have something to say, but because broadband isn’t a tangible product, and because the average user doesn’t have a clue about bit rates, every single one of these providers gets away with it.
Now, I’m a realist, I get that it’s not always that easy to provide bandwidth, but here’s my real problem with all this; while the top speed *boasts* are increasing, the *actual* speed isn’t.
Ten years ago, a usable download speed of 400k would have been incredible. Websites would have flown along, and Limewire would have been fantastic, but ten years ago we didn’t have (as much) online gaming, or the iPlayer. We didn’t have YouTube, or the iTunes store. So we’re routinely being left with speeds that simply don’t match the demand being put on them, and I’m sick of it.
Of course, the ISPs will grumble and complain, and say that they’re doing their best, but quite frankly, their best just isn’t good enough anymore. Collectively, we spend a fortune on a service that we’re simply not getting value from, unless we live smack in the centre of a big city. What the hell are we spending our money on if we’re only getting 1/8th of what we were promised? It feels to me like they’re taking the money and running, or in Talk Talk’s case, spending it on advertising all over The X Factor, while simultaneously being the country’s most complained about ISP.
How long would I stay online for if I told Talk Talk that I was only going to pay them 1/8th of the monthly bill?