Rural broadband connectiion

by John A Wilson, Carmarthen Online

Carmarthen Online is a website design business based in a converted cowshed adjacent to our house, known as Broadway but locally called Pwll Llacca, which probably means muddy pool but no one knows for sure. Since it is raining outside at the moment this name is probably quite appropriate, but on clear days we have a view stretching 30 miles or more. As you will have gathered from this we live in rural Wales, about eight miles from Carmarthen, which is about 30 miles west of Swansea.

People around here are getting more aware of the benefits of the Internet, and I would guess that about 30% of the local population has access, mostly through a normal dial up connection using a modem. ADSL is not likely to be introduced into the rural areas of West Wales for some time yet, but it is something which businesses like ours are relishing, as long as the economics work out sensibly. We could always relocate our business to one of the local towns - I believe that connections in Carmarthen are quite good, but then we wouldn't have that view out of the window!

When we started up we had a second line put in for the business for Internet use. A month or so later we realised that our connection speeds were 30kb/sec maximum, even though we were using a 56k modem. After much searching of software settings etc we realised that the line had been split using a "dacs" box, which has the effect of halving connection speed. BT was under no obligation to provide anything faster on a voice line, but it would have been nice to know this beforehand.

After a month or two of slow connections we decided to convert to Home Highway, which uses ISDN. This has worked well and has the benefit of actually giving us three lines, any two of which can be used at the same time. We do not use the Internet connection at 128k but use the digital line at 64k for Internet and fax use. Ironically, we are now able to connect using the old dial-in modem at speeds of 56kb/sec.

As we are located within the required 3km or so of the local exchange we were fortunate enough to be able to use ISDN, but many businesses who would like to use ISDN are located outside this distance and unable to get the benefits of the faster connection. The same problem will apply to ADSL, when it eventually reaches us.

We are currently experimenting with unlimited Internet access, but it is not working very well and we will probably try out BT SurfTime when it gets to us in July.

My hopes are that the "big pipe" suppliers will soon see the benefits of opening up the bandwidth to businesses such as ours. If the service is provided at a reasonable cost there are plenty of rural businesses that will use it.

Editors' note: this feature looks at the difficulties of getting connected in rural Wales, check other Broadband ‘features’ and ‘information sheets’ under ‘Broadband’ in our index for recent developments. If you have a telecoms related dilemma, please share it with us!  

Reviewed January 2011

last updated : 21/01/2011

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