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Real Grown-Up Broadband

Technology is everywhere around us now and I really don’t think that any of us give it a passing thought. The amount of ‘devices’ that connect to the internet, even within my own home, is baffling. We are a ‘tech savvy’ household but not overtly so and for the most part, we have had no issue with using our various gadgets.

Both my husband and I have mobile phones which are used hourly, a laptop and a games console. We have had tablets in the house but generally they get forgotten about and are not used. In more recent times we have added other smaller items to the fold (like my husband’s watch), but really it seems that at the moment if it is something that you ‘turn on’, it probably connects to the internet.

An Unexpected Knight in Shining Armour

We have a land line because the reception is so bad in the house that often calls and texts are not received until hours later. I live in fear of not being contactable (this may hark back to being the daughter of a doctor who was always ‘on call’ and needed to be reachable).

I would always have classed our internet use as average and never considered that it might be excessive. Even with the arrival of the lockdowns over the past year or so, we are just a household of three: we farm, so there was no requirement to be spending hours every day enduring online meetings, and the local school seemed less concerned with live communication, favouring an upload-type system of assigning homework.

Up until recently, our broadband service came to us through a land line, which never caused us any problem. That we could access the internet or do what we wanted to do online was absolutely taken for granted. We never really even gave the condition of the line coming into our house any thought – we had internet and that was all there was to it.

That is until about this time last year. With the onslaught of Covid on Ireland back in March of 2020, the countrywide lockdown in was brought into effect. It forced us all to rethink our way of life: home became our workplace, our schoolroom and our refuge. It seemed like overnight, our worlds became smaller. We were no different, except that we counted ourselves super lucky to be farming and living out of the city.

A Much Happier Gamer!

At about the same time, our son Luke turned ten. In fact, the local national school announced that it would shut the day after his birthday (for the rest of the school year as it turned out… little did we know at the time). Though I had been blocking the entry of the Xbox game Fortnite for months, for some reason he was told that he could have it for his birthday (I might add that I made no such promise!). I was resigned to this new game being played as I had researched it and anticipated it would cause problems. Of course, one might argue that with schools being closed and the country living in fearful disarray, it allowed contact with school friends.

In any case, Fortnite entered stage right. We were blessed with wonderful weather and I spent much of that first lockdown in the garden or outdoors. Projects that I never could have imagined were taken on with gusto. And in the background, Fortnite was played for a few hours here and there.

Within a few months we noticed that we were having problems when it came to using streaming services like Netflix while Luke was gaming online. We put it down to how busy the internet must be with everyone working and schooling from home. As our demands were low, it caused upset to Luke more than anybody else and knowing no differently, we adults tolerated the broadband connection that progressively got worse and worse.

I contacted our supplier a number of times to see if our bandwidth had been reduced. I had engineers from the national telephone company, Eir, out to visit our house and check our connection, but to no avail. Our problem it seemed, was that the phone lines being supplied to us are the old fashioned copper coaxial cables. While there was a national rollout of ‘Fibre’ lines, they had not reached us yet. I was assured that we should get this ‘fibre’ available to us within the next twelve months or so.

We live rurally and I would have thought that of all people, I would be the least likely to be surprised to realise that our internet connection was in fact dire. I ‘just got on with it’ for months, but after spending about sixteen hours uploading images to the internet one weekend, I completely lost my temper. Not only had I spent time waiting for the images to upload, when I came back to caption and edit them a couple of days later, all of the uploads had failed. All of them. They were images of moderate quality to be used on my social media and website, but certainly not professional grade!

I was furious. All that precious time had been wasted and I felt so frustrated. I suppose I had been selfish before, because although Luke had been complaining loudly and frequently about his ‘ping’ and ‘lag’, I hadn’t done anything about our poor connection because it hadn’t affected me. It was time to look a little further afield.

Just a few weeks later, one of our closest neighbours was spotted with the van of a local ‘Internet Broadband’ company outside her house. I was intrigued and stopped to chat to her a few days later when I saw her out clearing flower beds at the front of her house. She told me about the company and how they had sent out an engineer who had connected her up: so quick and easy. She said that the internet service they were now getting was vastly improved.

Of course, within a matter of days I had heard of lots of other neighbours of ours who had also started using this new service and were now also enjoying a modicum of ‘normal’ supply. I rang them myself and was delighted to be told that though they couldn’t guarantee service (it all comes down to the dish they supply being able to ‘see’ one of their masts to receive the signal) they would send an engineer out to survey the site.

Six working days later, I was paid a visit buy a charming young man from the company. He was pleasant to deal with, efficient and left after an hour, leaving wonderful, blissful, speedy internet in his wake.

The service we are now using is so much faster than before, it’s like night and day. It makes me wonder why I didn’t save myself the stress by having it installed earlier! All of the things I need to do online take much less time and I’m grateful for that. We can all game and stream and cruise about on the internet at the same time without bother.

And as for the Gamer: he now can play happily with his friends without fear of ‘ping’ or the inconvenience of ‘lag’ and that means that as parents, we are not being subjected to bouts of rage and temper tantrums… thank goodness for that too!

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