Can’t get fast enough broadband? Here’s what to do

A report in July claimed that the average British internet speed is a shade below 8Mbits/sec, an increase of more than 40% on last year’s figure.

This figure came from Akamai, the global behemoth of content delivery. Whenever you visit the website of a global mega-corporation, there’s a good chance you’re actually connected to one of Akamai’s many global content farms. If anyone knows how fast British users are slurping data, it’s Akamai.

While this increase is to be applauded, I suspect many of you are weeping at the news. I never get 8Mbits/sec at home, and I know plenty of you are in the same position.

My local exchange is about a mile away, visible from my upstairs windows, but my ADSL2+ connection still hovers around 6Mbits/sec. When BT brought in fibre, my local green cabinet was about the only one that wasn’t replaced, so I can’t get the fibre-to-the-cabinet speed of its Infinity service.

I’ve no idea why my cabinet wasn’t upgraded, since others nearby were; houses in both directions along my road get fibre speed. (Oddly, several other PC Pro Real Worlders are in the same situation; I’m sure it’s a statistical blip, rather than a conspiracy…) Surely I could ditch ADSL and get cable broadband from my local provider, Virgin Media? Actually, I’ve tried. I signed up a while ago, but when the engineer arrived to install the service, he took one look at my block-paved drive, sucked his teeth and simply cancelled the job.

Apparently, Virgin Media can’t deal with paved front gardens, despite the fact that 30% of this country’s properties are similarly designed (according to a recent report by independent motoring charity the RAC Foundation).

You’d have thought losing that much business might prompt Virgin Media to find a solution, such as wireless technology from pavement to house, or tunnelling under the garden using a “mole”, as gas companies do to install a new feed for an existing property. But no: when confronted with a few yards of paving stones, Virgin Media just gives up.

Of course, this didn’t stop the company from invoicing me for a non-existent service for months, and even threatening me with court action for not paying. Part of me wanted to stand up in court and make Virgin look stupid, but I value my good credit rating and know what a hassle it is to get a black mark removed, so I persuaded the company of its error before my day in court arrived.

For the time being, then, I have to make do with a combination of old-fashioned fixed-line ADSL broadband and equally old-fashioned HSPA+ mobile data (my sleepy seaside hometown being well off the 4G map for the time being). Neither is terribly fast, but both are usable; in fact, the mobile 3G link is often faster than the fixed line. The combination works for me – at least until Virgin manages to cure its paving-stone phobia.

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