28 August 2009

Broadband? What's that?

If you have a decent broadband connection, count your blessings! (and feel sorry for me)
Ireland in some ways is way behind the rest of Europe and this is most apparent when it comes to broadband connection in rural areas.
When many other countries started getting broadband, we still had to use dial-up. Then we had an ISDN connection which improved things somewhat and we weren't kicked out of the internet quite as often anymore.
Every few months, we would check if our landline telephone provider Eircom had made any changes to the telephone lines in our area, hoping that eventually we would be able to get broadband here. No such luck! They just couldn't (and can't) be bothered to bring broadband to the rural areas in Ireland as opposed to the UK where you find proper and relatively fast broadband connection in remote areas like the Scottish Highlands.
We were delighted when the "broadband modems/dongles" appeared on the market a couple of years ago. "Broadband" via a mobile device - Wow! - Only "Wow" it certainly wasn't. Problems, problems and more problems. Slow speeds, network problems, even slower speeds, unusuable speeds, no network connection at all, you name it.
2 years later...and still no joy. Eircom are not improving the lines in our area, so home-based broadband won't appear here in the foreseeable future. Still stuck with the so-called broadband modems which use HSDPA technology. In the spring of this year, the Irish government decided that this technology was good enough (and cheap enough) to bring broadband to many parts of rural Ireland and awarded the National Broadband Scheme contract to the operator we've been dealing with for the last 2 years. Believe it or not, but we aren't even part of this National Broadband Scheme and we live only 15km (10 miles) outside Ennis, the nearest big town and county capital.
I've made some contacts within this company (the mobile broadband operator) over the last couple of years and they have done a lot to help us with our problems. Our modems were upgraded and we've got so-called repeaters installed which are supposed to boost the signal. For about a fortnight in July, we had the pleasure of a near decent broadband connection with 1 - 4mb download speed and were able to stream videos for the first time ever. Then the problems started again.
Today, I'm very lucky indeed to be online as I haven't been able to get on the net in the last 26 hours on the laptop in my home office. Had to drive into town this afternoon in order to read my emails (the modem worked there, different mast for the signal).
Eventually, we managed to get online on one of the computers in my husband's office in the house, but although we have 2 modems which we pay for on a monthly basis, we only managed to get online with one of them and at appalling speeds (waiting for pages to load, etc.)
Fun?...Not. Unfortunately, we're fairly stuck for alternatives. There are other operators using these "broadband" modems in Ireland, but they don't cover our area. I've seriously considered moving, but would you give up your house for a broadband connection?
Watch this space for more rantings and ravings :(

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