back to article Diary of a Not-spot: One man's heroic struggle for broadband

Bringing connectivity to rural areas can involve lobbying MPs and signing petitions, but it can also involve knocking on doors, digging up sheep fields and climbing around on the roof in search of bandwidth. Over the last seven years I've tried all the alternatives, from satellite broadband to community networks, not to …


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  1. Pete B
    Thumb Up


    Didn't realise there was anybody else as desperate for a good connection as me - I moved house instead.

  2. TaabuTheCat


    You sir, are one persistent man. I hope you get rewarded soon.

    And here I am bitching and moaning about Comcast throttling my *upload* speed to 1mbps. Guess I should stop complaining.

  3. Smallbrainfield

    An epic tale indeed.

    It sounds like it might have been cheaper to move house?

    I hope that rooftop crow's nest is rigged for storms, especially electrical ones.

    1. Ammaross Danan


      One could simply look for a good old-fashioned antenna used by decommissioned radio stations and the like. A simple 3-vertical poles connected by a triangle lattice making one very tall, sturdy antenna that requires guy-wires to keep errect and stable. Mount/Aim the transceiver and hoist the antenna. Just where to get one....

    2. Mark 65

      Certainly more persistant than I

      I'd have moved house long ago. Perhaps FTTC will help when it arrives in his area around 2050?

  4. Tom 7 Silver badge

    You dont want to do it like that

    just plug it into your run of the mill wifi router

  5. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    A great read.

    Well done for taking the time for illustrating just how far out of touch the government is with the real world.

  6. mark 63 Silver badge


    "I had the BT engineers round a few times, trying to get a signal, but their efforts were frustrated by my next-door neighbour, who is still adamant that he owns all the BT cabling in the area and won't let the BT engineers into his garden. Apparently some of his rhododendrons have been there 20 years and it wouldn't be safe to let anyone near his monkey-puzzle tree as it "would tear them to shreds".

    You'd just wanna throttle the guy wouldnt you?

    thats the most entertaing 3 pages i've read on the reg for a while :)

    1. Wize

      There are ways round such people

      Did his own line fail by itself or was it given some help? Back hander to a friendly BT engineer is worth it.

  7. HP Cynic

    Amusing tale of partial triumph over tech (and social) adversity.

    This is why when I bought my first house the priority list went something like this:

    1. Broadband

    2. A Roof

    I was most amused when Blueyonder (or whatever they are called now) asked "Why have you chosen not to stay with us at the new address?" on my conversion to ADSL.

    "Because despite your heavy leaflet campaign you've chosen not to supply cable to these streets, including my new address".

  8. Fred 4


    in the States, dont have a clue about the writer's side of the Pond, you can get USB 3G and 4G(?) "dongles" which give you an internet connection via cell service. I dont know what sort of speeds these provide, but they should be stable.

    The adverts ive seen put the cost at (depending on company) 50-60 USD/month

  9. cookieMonster

    use a long length of ....

    use a long length of 2 inch pipe, bolted/secured to the gable end of the house to hold the receiver. I've see 12 foot long sections of pipe like this used to mount tv aerials - so it would easily support the gear you have.

    It also gives you the capability to increase the height securely.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh the memories

    I remember the time when my then CEO was living in the village of Iron Acton and it was a "No chance of ADSL, way too expensive" location for BT to consider, and so we used some professional 5.8Ghz stuff to run a connection from there to an office of a client just up the road in Yate.

    Before this, the CEO had been using Satellite comms too.

    We didn't suffer quite so many teething problems as you did and the connection worked fine. So much so, in fact, that BT finallaly added the Rangeworthy exchange to those that were DSL capable.

    They did much the same in mid-Wales after we used the same technology to set up connections to all the schools in the area on behalf of the local LEA.



  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Would have been easier

    It would have been a lot easier and cheaper to order porn on dvd through a mail order catalog. Nice artical though!

    1. Kenny Millar


      This is Scotland, and rural Scotland at that. If he can't get ADSL he sure as whatsit isn't going to get a 3G mobile signal.

      Nice thought though.

    2. Gaz Jay
      Thumb Up


      I had a similar problem.

      I was a happy subscriber to Virgin Media at my old house. When I moved I made sure I moved to a street that had Virgin available. However, it turned out that when Virgin installed the cable in the street they didn't bother to cable the gap between houses where my new house was eventually built.

      I contacted Virgin, who claimed that they would have to dig the road up and it would be far too expensive for just one customer.

      We decided to go for Sky broadband and TV package.

      A month later we had neighbours move in to the new house next door and guess what... Virgin were more than happy to dig the road up and install broadband for them. Then the bloody Virgin salesman decided to knock on our door advising us that "Virgin is now available". I told him I'd only take his service if they were willing to pay Sky the cancellation charges. If not, I'd be sticking with them.

      The only thing I miss, is Virgins genuine TV on Demand. Looks like it's back to torrents for that then.

      1. BorkedAgain

        Ooh, don't get me started on VM...

        When I moved into my (ground-floor) flat I tried to convince virgin to connect me. Their cable runs right outside my front-room window, there's a manhole right there, and there's even the little conduit running from the manhole to my wall. Even so, they told me it'd be too expensive to connect me. Every other house in the street has their cable connected, but no. Apparently if they connected me thay'd have to connect all the other flats in the building, 'cos otherwise people would feel left out and sulk or something...

        So I'm connected over good ol' ADSL, like the last five years never happened. Okay, nothing like the hardships this guy's gone (going?) through but still a little vexing...

    3. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      But that requires cell service too

      I'm having a similar problem with the mother-in-law who has one bar of cell service standing on the back corner of the porch and uses a land line for phone and internet service ... on a good day (not raining) we can get a 14kbs connection on the modem.

      She's too far away from the main road to get ADSL and has line-of-sight to nothing even though she's on top of a hill - welcome to rural Mississippi.

      She's running Win-XP so every six months we drive her PC into town to update it - downloading SP-2 took nearly six months.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        are you from Chunky?

        My parents life in very rural Alabama. Before they got satellite internet, if my dad received an email with an attachment, he'd drive into town (27 miles) and download it via 3g because it was quicker.

    4. hplasm Silver badge
      Thumb Up


      Run them down to the ground,and then you can add more lengths and push up, plus have more supports on the side of the house. Scaffolding pipes are great and have connecting sleeves and braces etc readily available

    5. J Lewter

      In the States LOL

      In the states (where I go) you need to drive for about 45 misn to get to a public "wifi" spot. Your about 20 miles away from ANY cell service (pager service works because that's what the police use) and dialup is only guaranteed for something like 9600 baud.. If it hasnt been raining too much you can usually get that speed without problems.

      I know that ppl think the USA is wired better than the rest of the world, but I have pals who lived in texas that couldnt get broadband, and I know of "fios" type connections around the great lakes that still has max service around 2-3 meg.

      About 5 miles from where I am goign is the nearest area DSL has rolled out to, and for 47$ a month (before phone rental and taxes) you can get the TOP service that's 768k down and something like 264k up.... Not real sure what the rates are but it's in that range, the upload isnt bad tbh... 1:3 :P... Anyhow...

      In MOST of the UK your never more than 2-3 miles away from something blazing fast. The problem is ofcourse the link to people who do have the service.

      If I was the guy in the story I would have PROBABLY just invested in a sat tuner and an older sat dish that he could use to direct the signal better.. Slowly adjust it and try to find the best place to be. Once he has it in place he could lock it down and take the dish turning kit off.

    6. chuBb.

      iron acton is well served comapred to some the exchanges arround yate area

      should try being on the didmaton exchange, had a friend living in iron acton who had adsl 2 or 3 years before my village got the chance.

      Although that was probably not helped by my village not giving a shit about adsl untill they got it, think we managed to get 30 names on petition when we were trying to get connected, now its so over subscribed i long for my bonded isdn line back meh :-/

  12. Steve X

    top marks for persistence!

    At the risk of this being a stupid question, what about using a pair of old Sky minidishes on your & Claire's houses, rather then the fresnel antennae that seem to be in the Solwise boxes? Would that give more gain & more stability of signal?

    1. simon newton


      They should work great, though they would be a pain to get set up right (and do look a bit dorky to passers by as the feed appears to be pointing at the ground). I remember back in the days of fitting a cantenna to the feed of a 1m dish and scanning it around my view over the medway valley with netstumbler. Got quite a few APs (bearing in mind this is from a time when you were lucky to get one or two AP's in your street).

      Alas, enough waffling. The problem with using minidishes and wifi in the EU is those pesky EIRP limits. If your AP or Wifi card and gain of antenna exceed 100mw EIRP then you are breaking the law (unless you are a ham). Though whos ever going to know .....

      1. Peter Simpson 1
        Thumb Up

        Use the old sat dish

        "The problem with using minidishes and wifi in the EU is those pesky EIRP limits."

        Is there really any chance that someone would check? It's supposedly illegal here in the US as well, but plenty of people in the hinterlands do it.

        Good on ya for getting this far, though.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @Peter Simpson

          It really depends where you are, but I'm not sure I'd want to risk it with a fixed installation. no-one will go out of their way to check, it's only if you interfere with anything that it starts getting interesting!

          Myself, and a group of friends, regularly use PMR* radios as part of our hobby. These frequencies are restricted for use by kit with specific antennae and power output limits. However, we have no problems using 5watt UHF radios on these bands when we are in a forest in the middle of nowhere for a day or two, for the extra couple of kilometres we get! We don't use them if we were anywhere near civilisation though!

          *European equivalent of FRS

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward


            IIRC, the maximum power legally allowable on 446 MHz is 0.5 Watts. Your ten times over the legal limit!

            Get a PBR license.

      2. Stevie Silver badge


        I hate to tell you, but four fenceposts cobbled into an A-frame sitting on your roof already has your Dork-Accumulator topped off to the max for years to come (or until it blows away in a gale).

        I don't wonder the neighbours don't speak to you. Thirty years ago it was possible to buy a telescopic mast from places like Radio Shack for Ham Radio purposes. Designed for holding up heavy Yagi antennae securely, yet able to be wound out of the skyline when not in use to avoid neighbour unrest and inclement weather damage, this would seem to be a better bet than four fenceposts, some angle iron and a bit of pipe.

        However, it's your village and your problem, and there may be many reasons for not doing this that you've not included in your tale of woe.

        It's the old dichotomy: To live in the urban decay and ASBO-riddled streets of a modern city, or to not have internet because you want to live in the back of beyond. How timeless is the tale of "man finds idyllic country home, then goes yampy trying to make it work like the city flat he just moved out of".

        It all looks so great on Ring of Bright Water but then you find out your lavvy is a bucket in a shed and you have to break the surface of your water supply with a hammer in winter.

        Good luck.

  13. Chris 35

    Kudos to you sir!

    That has got to be the most entertaining and well-written story that I've read in ages.

    I take my hat off to you!

  14. Anonymous Coward

    London Zone 2...

    ...and 512kbit/s. Welcome to the digital age.

  15. blackworx
    Thumb Up

    To quote another bonkers Scot...

    Sir, I admire your indefatigability!

    On a separate note, unless "Anthony and Yvette" moved to Scotland from one of a few localised areas in the west Midlands or the north east, it's almost certain that their water supply wasn't even being fluoridated.

  16. Steve 13


    Is it not possible to use some sort of radio kit that's actually designed to work across several miles, rather than something designed to work within your house?

    WiMax maybe, or just some sort of Walkie Talkie type transmiters?

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge

      This is already outdoors point-to-point stuff

      And I've seen similar gear being used to carry about 30MB/s across 5km of (flat) farmland. This involved two scaffolds at either end though, which I wouldn't recommend for a permanent installation.

      But those flat-pack antenna/transceiver units are a bit iffy to aim right. With a parabolic dish like this HG2424G-NF.gif you can tie a laser pointer to the forward-pointing bar and get the aim spot-on in minutes, weather cooperating.

  17. Anonymous Coward

    fluoridation of the water

    Where they, by chance, related to a certain General J. Ripper in charge of a bomber base in the United States?

  18. Will 19
    Thumb Up

    I know the feeling

    Here in sunny (snowy) Cornwall I've had a similar experience. I don't live that far away from a magical green box but the cabling is Aluminium and BT are not interested in replacing it no matter how many people want broadband in the area. Periodically the broadband checker changes it's mind and says we can get broadband and the same tired engineer comes out to explains we can't even though the web site says we can. I'm an electronics engineer and I've come up with many creative ways to try and get the bloody service here but BT aren't interested! I've been through satellite systems, rallied around residents in line of sight areas which can get broadband so as to establish a link and even been approached by companies wanting to setup a satellite hub here to serve the community local demand has been so high. In the end I settled for 3G. Even that wasn't easy, I've had to resort to a high gain antenna on the roof to get a decent signal. Been using it for 3 years now and other than the odd tower outage and the hideously small transfer allowances it's been so much better than dial up.

    1. danielpugh

      i had similar problems

      i can recommend old windsurfer masts as mounting points for the equipment -

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Will 19

      You could take the thieving pickey approach, and rip up all the ali cabling using a 4x4. The BT would have to replace it. Might make a few quid on the scrap ali as well. Just make sure no-one sees you doing it.

      You ain't seen me, right...

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    although the latency problem remains

    They managed to cure latency on satalite phones by moving from a geostationary bird to the LEO Iridium constellation. I'm surprised that no-one has started lofting a similar broadband constellation I'm sure there are enough yachts in the world to fund it...

    Nice to read your efforts, but I cant help thinking that your obsession was just a tad too demanding for some of your neighbours.

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge

      I did the maths back then

      and with an Iridium phone you would be getting something like a 19k2 data link. I'm not sure, given the antenna constraints (sats whizzing past overhead instead of being stationary so you can point a dish at them), that you'd be getting much more than that now, and unless the Roman Empire put in your telephone wiring after they were done with the aquaducts, you'd likely be better off (and certainly cheaper) staying terrestrial.

      1. John Sturdy

        What did the Romans ever do for us?

        At least aquaducts keep on workingl why can't we build networks that last that well?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        why a dish?

        I was not implying using an actual iridium phone but instead a new dedicated proper broadband constellation.

        Whilst a dish is a good for low power situations is it actually required for good throughput? I would expect that most earthstations requiring rural broadband would have mains power.. now the sat on the other hand...

        And as an aside whats wrong with tracking a sat? aeroplane broadband does just that ok its not cheap but it works already. and I'm sure it would be feasible to set up the birds such that you'd just end up with a slowly rotating cluster antenna.

  20. Bassey

    What you really need

    Excellent story and I can't help but admire your persistence - I would have given up a long time ago. Of course, what you really need is for someone senior within BT to move into the area. It's amazing how quickly an area can get upgraded when a senior BT exec decides they like the rural way of life/low house prices.

  21. dingo

    Get two Pringle cans

    I remember a look a like story but that editor boosted the signal strenght and direction by building two antennas from a Pringle can. It surely should be worth a try.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    Get yourself an 80ghz license and some great big Bridgewave radios. Only £40k!

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge

      24GHz is license-free

      and the gear is a bit under 10k euro per station. A bargain, really

  23. FrogCentral

    Serves you right

    That's what you get for living in the middle of nowhere.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    your doing it wrong mate... usbwifi is what you need

    your story make s me cry as your doing it wrong mate...

    first up you are using a non directional i assume high gain aerial, make a reflector for it and fit that ASAP OR FAR Better take that junk sat arial in your garden and USE IT dont waste it.

    it looks Perfect for your re-cycled needs as i see two perfectly spaced rails that you

    simply mount your existing Solwise box to

    in effect you want to get your 8 db arial as close to the existing UMB on that redundant sat dish as That is your focal point, then you point the dish in Claire direction and YOU WILL HAVE Full Speed and Far Higher DB gain perhaps in the 24db range and Be happy.


    report back here ASAP ;)

    you can even put several cheaper 11N ones up and Bond them all to get a REAL wireless 200Mbit/s+ backbone going if you Just keep in mind a Higher Db means longer distance , for every 3 db you increase you get twice the distance at the same speed/Signal to noise ratio.

    and given these are external point to point data links You can Legally use a higher DB total gain etc..

    seriously a re-purposed sat dish or indeed any parabolic metal shaped object once you find its focal point is your diection friend when it comes to radio, even box reflector for your mobile would work too....

  25. Anonymous Coward

    Thumbs up

    Great story, but isn't cat-5 limited to 100metre cable lengths? Did you bury a repeater in a field or something? How was it powered?

    Just curious really, a good read on a friday afternoon :)

  26. Eddie Johnson


    Nice to read someone else's experience. I've been considering 2 similar projects, one for my company and one for a friends business which is forced to run over a wireless link due to a lack of cable or DSL access. I'm in a hilly area and some of the stuff like's 5 mile bridge kit caught my eye. Erecting 50 foot towers seems affordable to me, they can be home brewed for less than the cost of a year's wireless bill a piece.

    1. Martin 19

      To be fair

      He's not saying "I demand that everyone else subsidises broadband for me"; he's trying to rig things up as best he can with his own money.

      Fair play to the man.


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