When living in the countryside, the internet can often be a double-edged sword. While towns and cities are benefiting from superfast fibre broadband, many rural areas of Britain are still suffering with slow dial-up connections. If you’re lucky enough to have broadband it’s almost a guarantee that it won’t be anywhere near as fast as the speeds found in more built-up areas.
Yet at the same time, the internet can provide access to many services that are vital to modern living.
Social media, email and VoIP services make it possible for us to communicate with loved ones that are often on the other side of the country or even the world. Online shops make it possible for us to buy goods that may not be stocked in local stores, and we can play classic games in an online casino instead of travelling to a major town or city to find a land-based one.
Yet, for one village in Wales, this important lifeline was disrupted each morning for 18 months.
At 7 AM every morning, the village of Aberhosan in Powys would see its internet stop working.
Engineers from Openreach, the company that manages the communications infrastructure for most of the UK, worked for a year and a half to resolve the problem. They searched high and low for a fault and even embarked on a cable replacement programme.
Yet, this was to no avail and the plight of the villagers continued unabated.
After using a piece of specialist equipment called a “spectrum analyser” to listen for interference that could be affecting the smooth operation of the village’s internet connection, they discovered that a local resident was using a second-hand TV that they switched on at exactly 7 AM each morning.
The TV, which is believed not to conform to modern British standards, was emitting a signal that interfered with the internet infrastructure, plunging their neighbours into metaphorical darkness.
The BBC spoke to Michael Jones, an Openreach engineer who had been working to resolve the problems in Aberhosan. He said that the owner of the dodgy TV was “mortified” that they had been to cause of the problem and had agreed to not use it any more.
The embarrassed TV owner isn’t the only person to cause electrical interference to their neighbours though. If you’ve ever had a WiFi outage while at home it is very likely due to some form of interference.
Microwaves, cordless home phones, and malfunctioning appliances can all emit signals that can interfere with the normal operation of communications equipment.